25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Largest Gatherings of San Pedro
Without a doubt, the largest gatherings today at a given time and place in San Pedro is the huge crowd that fills Saca Chispas Field during the Costa Maya Festival. It is estimated that there could be anywhere between two to three thousand people gathered at the field to applaud the Costa Maya Queens during the pageant and perhaps a little more during the appearance of the international star for the International Night. From the stage, you can appreciate an endless array of colors, and exhilarated persons all enjoying the presentations during the festival nights. Indeed it is San Pedro’s largest gathering at any one time.
With this festival we can appreciate how much this town has grown in terms of population. Nevertheless we did have our dose of large gatherings twenty five years ago. The first one that comes to mind is the celebration of Caribeña’s Fishing Cooperative Annual General Meeting. This was not only a formal meeting but also a celebration held at Central Park.
Practically the entire town used to gather there during the month of July before the opening of the new lobster season. The kids were treated with food and soft drinks during the early hours of the evening. By eight p.m., one or two musical bands used to spice up the night with hot “merengue” music and romantic ballads that lured everyone to the dance floor. And for those who did not like to dance, well, there was music to listen to, food to feed the dogs, and beer and rum like sand. There were teenagers, single mothers, married couples, young people, old people, very old people and even babies at that party. Central park was full and well lit as the entire village celebrated a successful year gone by and got ready for a new lobster season due to start every 15th of July.
The next large gathering took place during Good Friday in the Easter Religious festivities. For the procession that took place it was the custom, and still is to a certain point, for all men of the village to attend. The school children were at the head of the procession and they better be or else the next school day, they would receive a good spanking or whipping from their school teacher. Next came the women who led in the prayers and singing. Following the women came the men all dressed in black trousers and white shirts. Their shirts were tucked in and many of them wore shoes. This was very unusual, but for Good Friday shoes were kind of a sign of reverence and respect. The men almost looked like saints, and any man not attending was considered an atheist.
All men attended. They left whatever they were doing, closed shop and attended this very revered procession. Finally there came the young ladies at the back of the procession. They represented the Virgin Mary crying behind her son as he walked up to Mount of Calgary for the crucifixion. I would say that if ten persons remained at home for this procession, it was plenty in a village of some six to seven hundred people.
The final large gathering took place the following day for the Holy Saturday dance. This very special dance was attended by all young people and most married couples. Usually a band would be brought from Chetumal, Mexico, so it was very special and attracted large crowds. There was a very festive mood around Marinos Club or Daddy’s Club with children playing, mothers and women looking on, men drinking, and the large crowd of party revelers dancing. This dance started at eight in the evening and usually went on until three in the morning with an interruption of one hour at midnight for the celebration of “La Misa de Gallo” or midnight mass to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But of all dances, this was the second largest for the year.
Even today, good events are measured by the large number of people attending. Twenty five years ago was no different, but with the village being quite small, I would say that good attendance meant almost 90 to 95 percent attendance. I mean, if you did not attend the Caribeña Annual General Meeting celebration, you would have been considered a real “pendejo” or drop out.