Our Community - Tomasita Gomez  - "Keeping the traditions alive in San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 27            July 6, 2000

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Tomasita Gomez

As we recently celebrated the day of our Patron Saint - San Pedro, one cannot deny the fact that unfortunately a lot of our traditions are slowly being forgotten. But not all is totally lost; fortunately, San Pedro has many strong individuals that go out of their way to make certain this does not happen. This week's personality works hard to keep our traditions alive, ensuring that San Pedro's unique culture does not die. It is with great pride that we introduce to you a special person - Mrs. Tomasita Gomez.

    On March 15th, 1926 a beautiful baby girl was born to Josefa Patricia and Ponsiano Guerrero. Tomasita was very special, like the rest of their children consisting of six girls and three boys. From a very young age she demonstrated good discipline and respect for her elders and at school was an exemplary student. It was during these years that one of her talents was discovered. At the age of eleven, Tomasita was selected to join the church choir because of her singing skills. She recalls that in those days, the school was closely associated with the church. Students would spend a lot of time there, either attending mass or cleaning the building. This was the time she says she "fell in love" with the church and dreamed of doing rosaries, novenas and the litany of saints. Her deep interest led her to attend religious classes every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and hymn practice every Friday at 5:00 p.m. Tomasita attended mass every day in May since the month was devoted to the Virgin Mary. She started doing rosaries at this time with the nuns that would stay in San Pedro for two weeks. Apart from her great contribution to the church choir her desire to spread the word of God found her attending almost every religious event on the island.

    At age fifteen, she sought work to help her family. For two years, she washed and ironed for a living. This type of work was not to her liking so she started looking for other things to do. This was when she found her true talent - sewing. She started cutting simple patterns and putting them together until she finally had finished a dress. Little by little she added her personal style to them and soon she was recognized as the town's leading seamstress. No job was too little or too big for her. She sewed everything from underwear to full wedding attire for both brides and grooms. She did not have any awards or diplomas, but what she did have was determination and ambition and this made her special. She commented, "When I would go to the city, I need only observe the styles they were wearing there and it stayed in my mind. I would then recreate them here but would add my personal touch, making it a new design." Tomasita would buy all her supplies wholesale in the city and would even sell some retail. She also made cloth flower arrangements which she would send to the city to sell. 

    By the age of nineteen she had gained the respect of all for her extensive sewing talent. But little did they know that she would once again bring another style to San Pedro. Tomasita was the first person on this island to do hair permanents (called "Toni," the only brand available at the time). Having a perm was a big deal in those days as it was only done on special occasions. Instead of traveling to Belize City, Tomasita first experimented on her sister's hair. Now accessible to the islanders, she soon had the girls coming to her house to get their "Tonis" for only three dollars. She would also cut her nieces' hair as a hobby and  that too became a part-time job as the entire town would go to her. Tomasita said smiling, "Even the "gringas" who came for vacation visited me with their catalogues, requesting certain styles. I would just study the book and cut it the way it looked. To my surprise, it would come out perfectly."

    On December 17th, 1950 she joined her life in marriage to Mr. Ernesto Gomez Sr. and together they have raised three children: Nellie, Ernesto and Einer Gomez. In 1952, she was selected from the choir to sing a solo, accompanied by violin, for the Resurrection Mass held at Central Park. She continued to do rosaries and novenas throughout the years and when asked to lead the prayers, would always willingly accept. "I am truly grateful that my husband is a very understanding person. I would sometimes leave my housework to do prayers and he would be very considerate about it." Mrs. Tomasita has many good qualities, but her devotion to her faith is probably her strongest. All year long she would be part of the religious ceremonies whether it was the Novena of Guadalupe, Stations of the Cross, Dia de San Pedro Procession, Las Posadas or Rosario de Las Animas. Unfortunately not everyone is like Mrs. Tomasita and due to a lack of devotion to our traditions, a lot of our religious culture is lost. Mrs. Gomez sadly commented, "Our traditions are dying today because the younger people don't want to give up a few minutes of their time to learn about our culture. I offer myself to teach anyone that is interested what I know so that the traditions stay alive."

    Mrs. Gomez is a creative cake decorator and was a sewing mistress at the San Pedro R. C. School. She has been a member of The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal since 1952. Mrs. Gomez has instilled her values in her children, friends and hundreds of people. She is a strong root of the Catholic Religion and has kept the faith alive in "Our Community."

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