25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

"Paloma" at Dance


P
aloma," a boy would tell you. And a little later you could turn to an other couple and repeat the "paloma" trick. Nothing like paloma exists today, and after digesting this topic, you tell me if "paloma" was a good thing or not,

"Paloma" is a Spanish word for pigeon. Any boy could approach a dancing couple, right in the middle of the dance hall, touch the gentleman in his shoulder and say "Paloma". The boy, according to custom and courtesy, was expected to allow the other boy to dance with the girl for the rest of that song. In respect for the custom, the girl was supposed to accept also. She had to dance that song and then say "thank you" and go to her seat. If she liked the company of the second comer, she could continue dancing with him.

Now there was nothing to stop a third boy from going to the same young lady. and ask for "paloma". At times a young lady ended up dancing with 4 or 5 boys during one song. These were the most popular girls of the town. These were also the friendliest girls, whose good manners and politeness did not allow them to say "no" to anyone.

At times one could clearly see the disgust in a young lady's face if she was dancing with a young man whom she liked and someone else came for a "paloma". But there were tricks to the trade. A girl could wink an eye at any boy, and he gladly came to get the "paloma", thus relieving the girl of a dance partner that was not of her liking. If a boy got hooked up to a girl who could not follow his steps he too could signal to a friend to come and ask him for a "paloma".

Sometimes, a boy would ask 2 or 3 girls at their seats to dance and they refused so he opted to go for a "paloma". Yes, at times the "paloma" trick turned into a fist fight. Some boys either due to jealousy or a bad mood refused to give up the pigeon and if the second comer insisted, he got a punch instead.

One final observation, mothers always accompanied their daughters to the dance. If she was dating exclusively, it was to keep an eye on them. If the girl was not serious with anyone, she was supposed to dance with as many as possible. And if she ever turned down a request for a "paloma", oh, oh, trouble I At the end of that set, she would be taken home- for breaking the custom and for showing the intention of dating exclusively. No, mother was not ready for that. She wanted her little girl to date and be popular with all the boys.

So you guys at the clubs, Watch out. The next time you are dancing, don't be surprised when another guy comes along asking for "Paloma" and steal your pigeon away. Watch out, it's coming back this millennium.


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