2017 Central Park Easter Bash
The San Pedro Good Friday Tradition
by Angel Nunez
In days gone by the men shaved from Holy Thursday because it was not allowed on Friday. Mothers cooked and baked also on Thursday. The young ladies ironed their clothes and washed their hair also one day in advance. Children were not permitted to swim or they would turn into some fish or mermaid. Fishermen did not go to their fish traps. It was a day of total rest, church at 12 noon and the Procession at 5 p. m. The procession lasted three hours and was compulsory for school children. No meat was eaten. No alcohol was consumed. There was no law. It was done voluntarily by tradition.
Some history of Easter in Belize
by Michelle Rivana Buckley
It’s Holy Week for us and Saint George’s Caye would be calling or anyone of the cayes most folks go to. Others would go up country near the river or down south to Hopkins or Placencia. It would be fun watching the tugboat similar to the one in the photo pull up to the government pier/bridge at Caye. The old fashion tugboats did not have the top cabin. It was flat like the photo with a hollow dugout where folk could sit and enjoy the ride. I could recall it being parked near the swing bridge and was rented for the day.
My mother always sew our Easter outfit which comprised of a blouse with shorts and a matching hat made from a cotton floral print. You wore your cha cha cha (flip flops) mismatch and all. I would have mine up until time to travel then for some reason I could not find a matching pair. I did not care neither did my mother. It was a choice of going with your belongings or getting left behind to stay with my older brother. I once got left behind and cried the entire day. The city would be like a ghost town come Holy Thursday I had to wait for my sister to get off work from Angelus Press. Usually our family would leave the Monday and stay at the cayes for two weeks. That was the first and last time I got left behind. The excitement of going to Caye would put me in a state of sleepless night for weeks. I eat breathe and thought about Easter trip to St. George’s Caye day and night. That was the only time I ate onions, belll peppers, and carrots and not share it with our dog. I believe this was my mother way of winning the vegetable war. Our swimsuit would be placed in a plastic bread bag. You know the ones a loaf came in and each person was responsible for their bag. Recycling at its best! Ha we never took towels the sun was your towel and no one used any sunscreen. As a matter of fact suntan lotion was the best. You be so cooked like a golden goose no one cared. Calamine lotion would be applied to our serious sunburn in the evening. This caye gal would be so brown like Sunny and tan bread. Your hair not come but in braids for two weeks. Hair fly always was the in thing. Braids knotted and every now and then my sister would have me sit on the steps (stairs) and redo my braids. By the end of the trip someone either left their swimsuit or cha cha cha. You get a yelling because you know there was no turning back or phone to ask our friends or cousins to go pick up our belongings. You could swim all day until 5 pm then you had to depart back to the city it was the first boat taxi.
One Easter we did not go for annual 2 weeks vacation and my mom and dad rented the tugboat instead. The tugboat traveled at a very slow speed and it was fun watching the waves and papas (dolphin) following it. I would hang my hands over the side and let that sweet and cool sea water glide against my hands creating a little surf. Spam sandwich made with mustard, mayonnaise, chopped onions, bell peppers, and habanero was our lunch and a case of Shevans lemonade in the glass bottle with wooden crate. Easter egg candy was our dessert and there was always thickly slice watermelon and orange for snack. You would swim all day and as it came closer to leave tears would be welling up in our eyes because we would see our friends who got to stay longer. My brother was lucky he always got to stay with my cousin. We had ground turtle only if caught or boil up my parents favorite on Holy Saturday and Stew Chicken or beef, rice and beans and potato salad. With milk cake and Chevannes soft drink.
The magic of sunset was the best my dad would wake us up from our nap on our travel back just to see the glistening of the waves on the sea and the beautiful sunset. We took nap because after swimming you would be so tired it came naturally. In our everyday day life it would be a fight to try and not fall asleep. I do believe that cool sea breeze did it’s job.
Docking was always tricky and funny holding on to my dad because as the other skiff (speed boat) would go by in the river the wave would cause the tugboat to move from side to side. We were lucky to get picked up and unloaded by the dockyard near collect canal off of Vernon Street. I preferred these boats to sailing boats as I would often get nauseous. The tugboats were used to assist the merchant ships from Britain that would be in the harbor offshore. Later on my dad built his small sailboat and it became our mode of transportation in addition to my Uncle Alexander Encalada aka Junior, Sally or Fatman skiff.
Every Good Friday our parents would restrict us from swimming because we would change into mermaids. Funny how only they could see them as the go by. I remember quite frankly being a believer as a kid. I for one did not go near the water to swim until 3pm in the afternoon. Also the tale of placing a raw egg in a bowl of water around midday when Jesus died the egg would sink on Good Friday or another tale told to us kids at Caye was Jack O Lantern floating by at night causing the fishermen to get lost if they followed its light. It didn’t have to be Halloween to see it. As told to us the fishermen would see its glow and thinking they are closer to land would follow it and be taken beyond the blue never to be seen again. At Caye you see a light going by on the sea at night we all scramble to make it home quickly. Forget about going to the outhouse you hold your pee until morning. To top it off on a windy night the palm trees would make rustling noise or the howling like a whistle which was scary to us kids. My mom would say you hear that? That’s the dead pirates walking the Caye so you better go to sleep. Why did I pull my sheet over my head and cover from head to toe not a part visible and holding my breath? Scared that the pirates would come get me. My sister would climb into the bunk with me and we would start to argue because she was taking to much of the sheet to cover herself and we both didn’t want to get pinch from the ghost. It was so funny because my brother would make scary sounds and we would start to bawl. My mother would then light all the lanterns so we could go to sleep. Those tales seem real and only through our parents eyes did those world come alive. I never frighten my kids like my mom did us with those tales I in turn frightened my kids with the devil and his pitch fork story roasting you over fire. It was funny and looking back I heard my mother telling my dad, “listen to them in there” meaning us fussing about the sheet and there was a chuckle. They entertained themself at our expense.
If at country only Tata Duhende would get you and he would travel from Benque where he lived. I Wasn’t scared of him like I was of the ghost. If we woke up with a bruise that was ghost pinching you and that was real. Hee hee being over active with play cause us to move about in our sleep and bang our arms or leg on the wall or bed rail. All them sugar candy we ate sure was ghostly we frighten our own self.
How many kids would wet their bed because of being scared out of their wits because those tales? I know I did and my mother did not whip me some were not so fortunate. Yes, “piss a bed cunuh” was the nick name of choice it did not bother me one bit. Why?because in our household it would be someone else’s turn sometime in the days ahead. Just a good laugh if you did because of ghost.
The magic of laying on the pier at Caye or on the veranda watching the sunset early morning and that beautiful saffire night sky so filled with countless stars. A galaxy painted only for our eyes. In country we lay in the backyard on the grass watching the night sky looking for the Big Dipper, Little Dipper and the Northern Star. If we were lucky a shooting start falling down. Pointing in its direction. The night sky hugging us! This made our world so beautiful. That moonlight so bright it lit up the sea or river and lay it’s path on top of the water. Falling asleep with innocence and pure warmth in the heart. The hammock holding you up if it was hung between the palm trees. Swaying at every movement. Cool breeze with the largest fireflies whisping by. Try catching them with jam glass jars and those crickets who played their own melody. Catching cricket was a kick and if lucky a fruit bat fly by and you run and scream. If you live in concrete jungle not one star visible.
Click here for more on vacationing on St. George's Caye.
Barbara Newton Romero:
A friend who has Catholic and Caye heritage said they were not supposed to swim all during Lent (not just Good Friday, which was my upbringing). Anyone else taught that way?
Michelle Rivana Buckley:
Yes. We were allowed to swim after 3pm on Good Friday. If you swam earlier you would become a mermaid. Also any type of seafood was the dish for that day.
The excitement of going to the cages as kids was soooooo thrilling.
Back in the day, The Easter holidays were enjoyed differently in Belize based on one's socio-economic status. The wealthy and well to do would fly out to Miami, the Cayman's or Cancun. Upper middle class folks would make their way to the Cayes and Placencia, while regular folks would be satisfied with going to the country-side and numerous Rivers and streams. The rest of us po pipple would lay around waiting patiently for good Friday to drag on and pass and then bright and early Saturday morning, have our ears glued to the radio for the latest report on the cross-country cycle classic. Fact is, no matter where you were Saturday morning, mainland or the Cayes, everyone was anxious to know if a Belizean or a foreigner was going to wear the coveted garland. Such was life in the Jewel on that, the longest holiday weekend.
Back in the day you could feel Easter in the air on Good Friday you can feel something happen on that day then the cross country race and then caye , those were some special time growing up Hicatee turtle for Easter dinner
Steve Douglas Swasey:
And horse races in Boom as well.
Yvonne Paulette Hunter Romero: We were fortunate that my grandfather bought property on San Pedro and together with our uncles they built a house where all relatives and friends were welcome. The last day of school we would come home, kick off our shoes and get in the boat. My grandmother, mom and aunts had already packed everything and the boat was loaded and waiting. Such great memories. Two kids missing from that photo. It was nine of us and we started going when I was five and the youngest was only two months old. My last Easter there was when I was 15 and later I got married on that same beach one Easter Sunday.
Yolanda Hoare Holdway:
Dr Reneau was a good friend of my dad and we all went out there on his boat every Easter.
Holy Saturday in Old El Cayo
by Hector Silva
The Cross Country Bicycle Race was second fiddle to most of us here. What we knew was, that a Cayo Buoy, Cyril Simmons and his brother in law, Poly Neal were the first to ride from Old El Cayo to Belize City. The rest to us was Greek..
BUT YES, we knew that top race horses would race on that day, at the El Cayo Savannah. (SUBANA)
Yes, horses like Seige Narcus,- Robin, Temoshenco, Lord Advocate, Nylon, Jalisco, Trigger, Conejo, Arrete, Blanco, War Chief, Furioso,
General George, Bob Hope, and many others.
So from early morning, we of the nearby villages began to treck the road to San Ignacio.
About 9.00 AM, we would hear Mr Percy Middleton, sounding his BUGLE with that sound of, HORSE RACE DAY.
And the Marimba music lift up the spirit that it was celebration day.
The (Subana) in San Ignacio by then, was filled to capacity, with enthusiastic horse owners, horse race enthusiasts, Race Betters and watchers.
The competing horses, with colorfully dressed Jockeys, would walk to the Starting Point, on the road to Branch Mouth, unseen to the expectant public.
The TENSE MOMENT WAS, when Mr Luis Espat, I think Mercury car appeared far away, signalling that the horses were coming. This was followed by Mr Percy Middleton BUGLE CALL.
What a fun day this was, as races followed throughout the day.with MARIMBA MUSIC filling the hearts of the crowd. (ALL PEACEFULL.)
This is to tell young generations that we had real fun in our young days.)
An Easter Holiday never to forget!
by Nick Pollard
1968 was a tough year at SJC as we were preparing for GCE Exams and Graduation in June. We were getting so many tests it required the burning of my books every day and night – every opportunity I got I had to be with my books and when not enough information was available, I and some of my colleagues would go to the British Council Library upstairs of Wischenka on Albert Street opposite to Sickaffy. I had started to visit Yoli's(?) bar at the corner of Daily and Craig Streets where I would meet some of my friends to have a few drinks. One guy who knew me tried to drunk me with Black Label Whiskey and Heineken Beer also called 'Steel Bottom'. I played for one of SJC's football teams – yes they had two: Blues and Whites so I had excellent discipline and control when it came to consuming alcohol. Furthermore I dared not go home drunk – never did so I can't say what would have been the consequences with Nick Pollard, Sr. Anyway, long and short my colleagues at SJC were planning an Easter trip to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. I had never been to San Pedro so I decided to join the gang and prepare for the trip.
The Easter weekend of 1968 arrived and I headed out to the Customs Wharf to board the El Sa P. It was a large sail boat that had been converted to a cargo and passenger vessel. I cannot recall if it had an inboard engine or an outboard engine but I do recall it was sweat and boredom travelling on the El Sa P as it was very slow and offered absolutely no covering from the sun. We pulled away from the Customs Wharf sometime after 11:00 am and headed out to Puerto Stuck and from there it crossed over to Caye Chapel and travelled over the quiet sea and later to Caye Caulker to discharge and load. From Caye Caulker it was another two hours before we moored on to the San Pedro pier. It was after 4:00 pm when I got my tired ass off the El Sa P and we headed over to the school where we would spend our Easter. We didn't have money to pay for a hotel or a guest house but I am sure there were in 1968. We hustled some good local food and had a few drinks near the sea. For me it was exciting to listen to the sound of the ocean waves breaking on the barrier reef. It was not my first experience as I had been to St George's Caye and Goff's Caye and experienced the waves hitting the barrier reef and creating huge white surfs as they came across the reef. There was a regular routine from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. Don't ask me if we went to Mass because I doubt that we went but the Crucifixion is a big event in San Pedro. When I look back the only big excitement we had was that a ghost was seen at the cemetery which if I recall correctly was located to the North side of the island. We decided to follow the crowd that were running in that direction. Lo and behold we saw a white clothing jumping from grave to grave but very gracefully so it looked like a real ghost and the people were frightened. There are some round seeds that wash up on the beach – believe they are called horse eyes. Google has them listed as Mucuna sea beans. They are solid and will hit you hard if you are stoned with them. Before I knew it, the men let out a barrage of those seeds – sounded like a hale of machine gun bullets. Later that night we learned who the clown was. I never knew him by name but he used to hang out with X priest Father Woods. Although it was a mischievous act it took away the boredom of just walking on the island and admiring the girls. For my part I was hoping to run into my bonnie whom I knew was on the island with family.
I was in love – call it puppy love or infatuation or whatever but I was feeling butterflies all over. It wasn't until Easter Sunday I saw her with her family. We chat very nicely and I was offered a ride back to Belize City on Easter Monday. I had been concerned about that as I really didn't wish to go back on the turtle. Easter Monday came and my friends left on the El Sa P in the late morning. I walked over to where my girlfriend was staying and waited for the sailors to load the Contigo. There it was anchored in the water. It was probably about 20ft long but looked very sturdy and ready for the seas. I would be sailing with my Bonnie on the Contigo. I cannot recall how many of us were on the boat when it set sailed – maybe six? But I was happy to be sailing with my Bonnie. We left San Pedro late afternoon; the winds were perfect and both jib and sail were full wind force. Contigo was cutting through the seas very fast! I have great admiration for those who can sail in Belizean Waters. I have extraordinary admiration for those who can sail at night for night had come – only the lights in the distance and the flashes from Baron Bliss Lighthouse. Sometime after 7:00 pm we got nearer to the Belize City Harbour; what we saw next was frightening. It looked like the whole city was burning as huge flames lit up the night. Closer and closer we approached and everyone was quiet now and then saying something. At that time I was residing at Grant's House at the corner of Barrack Road and Hyde's Lane opposite Gon's Panades Shop. We had no radio, and no cell phones in 1968....it was a crazy Easter Monday! The flames were huge and spread over a large area. Any of our houses could have been burning. Closer and closer we came, our hearts beating heavy and fear in our minds. The Contigo finally made it in and moored at a small wooden pier on the Southern Foreshore near the Bellevue Hotel. This area was home to the Valdes brothers, owners of the beautiful Contigo! I grabbed my duffel bag and said good night to everyone and thank them for the excellent sailboat ride flawless and smooth.
I quickly headed over the Belize City Swing Bridge and tried to approach Queen Street. I couldn't get close as the flames produced lots of hot smoke so I turned back and made an attempt up Hyde's Lane. I managed to cross over the junction with New Road and headed up the street to my residence. All my brothers and sisters were outside on the verandah watching the fire – my Mom and Dad too. While there were no phones a trail of gossip messages passed our way; the Valencia Ice-cream concrete building was catching fire, all the wooden buildings were gone. Across the street a two story wooden building that housed Willie Whylie's ice-cream shop was gone. For so many young people 'Taff Moody' was the place to buy delicious ice-cream, hotdogs and more. Rumours of tanks exploding at the corner of Queen Street and New Road where the Belize Electricity Officers were had caught fire. The Escalante Bakery at the back, not far from the canal bridge – that whole area was gone. All fire engines were exhausted in pulling water from the Belize River. They were later joined by the fire engines from the International Airport. Belize had never experienced such a disastrous fire before – at least not yet!
Investigations were carried out but as far as I remember no one was charged but a couple people were fingered. Years later Karma would come to someone who was accused of that fire; he tried to burn down Sikaffy's Hotel upper flat but the fire engines arrived quickly and out the fire; firemen found candles that were lit in the building. I believe he was tried, convicted and served time in prison.
Photo below of the "Contigo."
Top two photographs by Shane McCann
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