25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

Dancing Twenty Five Years Ago


T
oday during a regular week there must be at least five or six dances held at various locations. Tourists dance daily. And for a New Year's night there are up to four bands playing in San Pedro. Dances are as common as going for a walk.

Not so 25 years ago. They were really special occasions and when announced, they were attended by the entire village, boys and girls, teenagers, adults and even the elderly. A few of the big events were New Year's Eve, Easter, Christmas, and the annual general meeting of Caribena Fishing Cooperative.

New Year's Eve dance was in two parts - "Baile de los Casados" and "Baile de los Solteros." (Dance for married couples and dance for single persons.) Daddy's Club or Marino's Club usually hosted the Baile de los Salteros and Tio Pil hosted El Baile de los Casados. The dances started at 9 p.m., each group with accordion and acoustic guitars and various percussion instruments. At midnight all bands stopped and everyone went to church for "misa de gallo" or midnight mass. After mass everyone went home to put on new clothing as a symbol of the arrival of the new year, and the dances continued. By 4 a.m. the solteros would usually end and many of them joined the casados - only then would they be welcomed. Hot chocolate and biscuits would be served at 5 a.m. and the dance went on until 9 or 10 a.m. (Note that the Lions still try to keep this tradition alive.)

Another big bash occurred for the annual general meeting of our fishing cooperative This was a biggie with tons of food and beer for all the village.

People jollied all night and fishermen whom you never suspected could dance took to the floor, after all everything was free. Fishermen love to argue, about fishing, so you can suspect that a big time fight with only one policeman on the island usually brought this dance to an abrupt ending.

Easter and Christmas were also big fiestas. Popular musical bands were Los Belicenos, Los Caneros, Los Atlanticos, Mauro y sus Profetas, Glenn Bood or Benito from Cheturnal Quintana Roo. Central Park was a popular dance spot as well as Marino's Rooftop. An old wooden building, situated exactly where Rock's Shopping Center is, used to be the site of many a dance.

People danced barefooted. To make the dance hall smooth and at times even slippery, powder or candle wax was sprinkled.

Mothers escorted their daughters to the dances. The dance hall had to have enough windows where the moms could stand and watch and doze and snore and watch and doze again. Oh no, if mom could not go for whatever reason, then the daughter had to miqs that party. All girls sat inside the dance hall and as the music began, the gents would come and select the girl of their choice. The girl could approve with a casual smile or the wink of an eye. If the girl looked away, it was a sign that she was expecting someone else. It was up to the individual boy to try his luck or suffer an embarrassment - and there were many.

A very popular thing occurred at dances and it was called "Paloma. " A boy would approach a dancing couple, touch the man on the shoulder, and say "Paloma". The man was supposed to allow the other boy to dance with his girl or partner for that selection. If he wanted he could ask for "Paloma" at the very next song. (Paloma, by the way, is a dove or a female pigeon,)

Yes, things have changed. Today there are parties everyday. Caribena, sad to say, cannot afford an annual party for the town -just a small unannounced party. If you have a dance at the park, no one will dance as young people today only dance in the dark or with flickering lights. Mothers cannot escort their daughters to any disco as the young lady will probably choose to stay home. In the 60's people preferred live bands. Today they prefer discos. In the 60's one tried to slide along the floor; today they try to jump to the ceiling. But... who cares. Everybody has fun his own way. Let the music continue!

Next issue, we'll talk about our very own musicians at our smaller dances.

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