Costa Maya 2001 a success - Miss Guatemala crowned Reina de la Costa Maya

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 33            August 23, 2001

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Reina de la Costa Maya Evelyn López

Flying high at the grounds of this year's Costa Maya Festival were the flags of the five Mundo Maya countries who united again in "La Isla Bonita" to pay tribute to their ancestors - the Maya. The festival committee's many hours of work and planning paid off as thousands of locals and visitors rendezvoused at the old football field to catch a glimpse of the cultural and musical diversity exhibited at the 2001 festival.
Reina de la Costa Maya Conductor Valentino Lanùs poses for pictures with fans upon arrival to San Pedro

    The euphoria began last Wednesday as many fans of the rising soap opera star Valentino Lanùs congregated at Maya Island Air's terminal to give him a warm island welcome. After a short tour of town, excited fans were able to shake Valentino's hand and even have their picture taken with the celebrity at his host hotel, the Fountain Blue Suites.

     On Thursday, pageant night, the festival grounds came to life as the five Mundo Maya ambassadors illuminated the stage with their beauty and charm. The festival was appropriately opened by the San Pedro Dance Company performing to "Welcome to San Pedro," a song written by Wil and the Caribbean Shells.

Belize's Melina Diaz - Winner of Best National Costume

After an official acknowledgement of the visiting dignitaries, pageant conductor Valentino Lanùs accompanied by Tina Auxillou of Caye Caulker accepted the microphones to commence the Reina de la Costa Maya Pageant. The five lovely contestants made their first appearance on stage adorned in exotic traditional costumes. Next came the swimsuit competition, followed by a special dance presentation which included the reigning Miss Costa Maya Sandra Silis of El Salvador. This was followed by the glamour of the evening gown competition. Throughout the evening all of the contestants received thunderous applause from the audience, but the final decision was surely a difficult task for the judges as all the ladies were worthy of the crown. At the end of the evening the distinguished panel of judges consisting of Steve Schulte, Jenny Woods, Johnny Roberson, Sharon Dominguez and Lucy Fleming, voted Miss Evelyn López of Guatemala the winner. Erika Lizeth Ramirez representing Honduras was named first runner-up. Melina Diaz was awarded the title of best costume depicting the melting pot of cultures that can be found in Belize. The festival goers then celebrated the crowning of the new Miss Costa Maya as they danced the night away with the sounds of Griga Boys. At intervals during the night the crowd was kept
entertained by the talent of Barbara's Dance Group and Grupo Apolo of Guatemala.
First runner-up Miss Honduras

    Friday's Cultural Fiesta Night was filled with delightful and colorful presentations from Ballet See Saca Tec from El Salvador, Formula Ancestral from Guatemala, Mariachi San Felipe from Mexico, and traditional dances by the San Pedro Dance Company and Barabara's Dance Group representing Belize. The ancestry of the five Mundo Maya countries was displayed with much "gusto" and enthusiasm by all the artists.
Laura Leon entertains the crowd

    International Night, one of the most anticipated nights of the festival took place Saturday as literally thousands of people arrived at the festival grounds early to ensure they had a good view of the Mexican superstar and singer Laura Leon. To set the mood for this entertainer, Formula Ancestral of Guatemala, local dance groups and the mighty Gilharry 7 performed some of their best selections. Just minutes after midnight the crowd gathered closer to the stage as Laura Leon made her grand entrance. Donning a neon green, form-fitting costume, the curvaceous "Tesorito" took to the stage emanating an energy that received loud applause and cheers. From the moment she stepped on stage until her last selection the electricity transmitted by this "hot" singer kept the crowd charged up! Her most popular songs were complimented by explosive fireworks, her energetic dancers and band. Both the younger generation and the young at heart stood on chairs to get a better glimpse of "El Tesorito." Described by many as one of the best concerts ever seen in San Pedro, Laura Leon was definitely the perfect headliner for the 2001 Costa Maya Festival. After approximately ninety minutes of outstanding entertainment, the superstar bid farewell but not without thanking the audience and taking some time for pictures with her fans. As always, the festival party continued, this time with the lively music of Gilharry 7 until the wee hours of the morning.

    Costa Maya 2001 certainly lived up to its claim of being the premier festival in this country. Looking back at three days jam-packed with culture, great music, exquisite food and entertainment, we congratulate the organizers and already look forward to Costa Maya 2002. Thumbs up to all the committee members, sponsors, supporters and the attendees of the Costa Maya Festival 2001! Well done!

"La Leona" meets "Los Leones"
San Pedro Lions Treasurer Abel Guerrero presents Laura Leon with the club's commemorative pin

he San Pedro Sun had the opportunity last Friday night to talk one-on-one with Mexico's "Tesorito" and headliner of the 2001 Costa Maya Festival, Laura Leon. Joining the island newspaper were some members of the San Pedro Lions Club who did not think twice about meeting this well-known actress and singer.

    Rebecca Beltrabai (Laura Leon's birth name) hails from the state of Tabasco, Mexico. She informed this newspaper that she first learned about Belize through the television but had not had the pleasure of being here before. She was impressed with the beauty of the island and its charming people. "I am glad and feel very fortunate to have been invited to visit "La Isla Bonita," stated Ms. Leon. During her stay on the island Ms. Leon said she hoped to learn more about the culture, arts and crafts, and to visit points of interest in San Pedro. She explained she has visited and performed in other small places like San Pedro and enjoyed very much the response and love she received, adding the feeling is mutual. "The charisma and charm of the people of San Pedro is evident," stated Ms. Leon when speaking about the wonderful and warm welcome she experienced.

    When asked how she describes her show, Laura Leon said it is very passionate. She always gives an intense show for her public because it reflects the public's applause. She describes it as "an artist and public's affair." Considered a "sex symbol" by many, Laura Leon stated she is honored to be thought of that way, but that she is only a very hard working woman, devoted to her work as an actress and singer. "The public has a lot of opinions of artists and I am glad they like me. That is very important to an artist," continued Ms. Leon.

    When this very busy actress/singer takes some time out of her demanding schedule she enjoys staying home. She also has a passion for traveling to new places and exploring the beauty of nature. "When Laura Leon is not working she forgets about the stage and becomes a woman that enjoys her home, her plants and her family," Ms. Leon told the San Pedro Sun. As a person in the music industry she has also developed a great love of all music in general but says she specifically enjoys reggae, rancheras and modern music. These, she says, rejuvenate her.

    The question in many people's mind is why the nickname "El Tesorito" (treasure) and to this Ms. Leon explained, "Why Tesorito? I had to do a lot of exploring. I had to dig for it and it was not easy. I found the map. The map taught me to be dedicated towards my goals. Before I found the "Tesorito," I dug, I fell, I cried, I laughed, but after a lot of hard work I found it."

    In speaking to the members of the San Pedro Lions Club, Ms. Leon stated she had the opportunity to work with Lions in Mexico. She stated she was happy to see a group of dedicated men and women in San Pedro helping others and was very proud of them. Lion Abel Guerrero, Treasurer of the San Pedro Lions Club, then took the opportunity to present Laura with the Club's commemorative pin which she accepted very humbly stating she would treasure it with much love.

    After her concert in San Pedro, Laura Leon returns to Mexico and then travels abroad to perform. She will then return to Mexico where she will begin filming another soap opera in January.

    Laura Leon ended her chat with the San Pedro Sun saying that San Pedro is very beautiful because it still contains its charm and is not as developed as other places of the world. "It is clear to see why you get a lot of people here; I only hope you preserve the charm of this island. It has been a great pleasure meeting you and I hope to stay in contact."
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