In the next nine hours or so, residents from Belize City and rural Belize District will converge on the Old Capital for the annual Jouvert. It starts at four a.m., immediately after the wet fete. Revelers and spectators of the carnival road march gather at the foot of the BelCan Bridge near the SanCas Plaza to kick off a parade and dance through the streets. Originally, participants covered themselves in cooked clay, but Jouvert has transformed and the revelers are now using paint, oil, water and chocolate. Last year, close to five thousand persons participated, but that number is expected to go up even higher as a number of companies are joining in the bacchanal. In fact, this year, there are up to seven sections in the Jouvert, says Karen Vernon of the Coco Devils. Today, Trinidadian judge for this year’s Carnival Road March, Sandra Bell, spoke on the history of Jouvert, a French word which when translated means before dawn.
Sandra Bell, Judge, Carnival Road March 2015
“Of course the Europeans have their own way and the Africans have their own way. Jouvert happening before dawn is really the way African people celebrated carnival because by seven or eight o’clock they had to go back, pick cotton, cut cane, wash the potty, whatever it is they have to do. So it happened before dawn, before they had to go to work. In addition to that, Jouvert was, and what we call in Trinidad—because I’m Trinidadian—and I want to say that only because that kind of carnival not only happens in Trinidad, but all the French speaking countries it happens. They did things like mimic the slave masters…like the Dam la Rey Character, which is a traditional character in Trinidad and many other places where the men dressed up like women and imitated the slave owners’ wife. So characters like the blue, the red, the black devils were all like making fun of the situation, making satire of the their masters and it is also called old mas meaning old masquerade. We just wore whatever we can find because who had time to go shopping or who had money to buy. So you just used whatever—yo tie up yo head, yo band up yo body, yo tie up yo foot with something. So the old masquerade was for everybody and they used that to make fun of their owners, who didn’t have a clue what it was all about.”
Karen Vernon, Organizer, Coco-Devils, Jouvert
“We give out whistles and beads and noise-makers. This year we even have some horns to give to our revelers to turn them into real chocolate devils. But there are many factors; there is wet fete, there is the mad squad who does paint and then there is the regular mud. Krem is bringing out a band; Lakers does a band. So this year, there are seven different trucks that people can spread out instead of just one big clump of revelers.”
The Jouvert leads up to the Carnival Road March on Saturday. We will have reports of the Jouvert during the road march from our mobile studios on Central American Boulevard. So stay tuned at one p.m. on Saturday.