Our Community - Lucio Guerrero - "Reviving a tradition of fun in San Pedro"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 8            February 22, 2001

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Lucio Guerrero

What sets San Pedro apart from other destinations in this country is its unique culture and traditions, which islanders have managed to maintain even with the ongoing development. Much credit for this must be given to the many great men and women who have devoted a big part of their lives to passing on to others what they, themselves, learned from their ancestors. They have motivated the younger generation to keep their traditions alive by teaching through example. This week, it is with great honor that we feature, in brief, one of the island's most respected citizens - Mr. Lucio Guerrero.

    Don Lucio, as he is frequently referred to by his many friends and relatives, is known as a strong root in San Pedro. His life could be better expressed through a biography relating his many experiences, strong beliefs and commitment to the preservation of the island's tradition. Although not a complete biography, we will attempt through this column, to let others have a peek into the admirable life of Don Lucio Guerrero.

    Lucio was born on April 22nd, 1930 to Severo Guerrero and Romana Pinto de Guerrero, who owned a large cocal (coconut plantation) known as San Telmo. This area was totally secluded from the village at the time, and although Lucio was the only child living there he recalls great memories of growing up in the cocal and playing with little hermit crabs for countless hours in the sand. When he turned fourteen, Lucio went to work with his father in the plantation gathering and peeling coconuts. They would load these in canoes and transport them to the cargo boat to deliver. The labor  paid a mere $2.50BZ for picking 500 coconuts. The selling price was $.08 to $.10 for selected coconuts three and a half inches or bigger and only $.02 for rejected or smaller coconuts. 

     In the 1950s, when the lobster industry began, Lucio made fishing his living. Equipped only with hand nets (jamos), hook sticks and lobster traps (nasas), Lucio, along with other fishermen scouted the Belizean seas for this valuable product. As time went by he also practiced commercial fishing.

    Lucio eventually married Angelita Kumul on December 20th, 1954. Their marriage produced four children: Ramon Guerrero, Severo Guerrero, Amelia Nuñez, Mireya Molina, Angelita Nuñez and Lourdes Ventura. During this time, Mr. Guerrero and his family resided in the same area where he was raised. As the town started to develop and his children grew, he moved the family into town where things were easily accessible.

    Apart from his dedication to work and family, the two major things that Mr. Guerrero has devoted a large part of his life to are his religion and the promotion of Carnival. 

    Seventeen years ago, Don Lucio, a faithful Catholic was asked by Father Raskowski to join the church as a Lay Minister. His first thought was that he was not worthy of such an invitation but soon realized that his devotion to his faith had no limits. After attending various religious sessions he was appointed a Lay Minister for the San Pedro Roman Catholic Church. As a Lay Minister, Mr. Guerrero takes part in the preparation of church services and delivers the Eucharist to the sick and elderly in their homes. Mr. Guerrero said, "I have been blessed with this great honor and hope to continue to serve Christ until my last days."

    Mr. Lucio inherited the love for carnival from his father, "Don Severito" who was the mastermind behind this annual celebration. As a child, Lucio would sit with his dad listening to him compose tunes and lyrics for the comparsas (street dancers). He commented, "My father would start preparing for carnival in January. Composing the songs brought him much joy and I too shared this happiness with him." In time, Lucio learned to play the violin while his father played the trumpet or harmonica for the comparsas. When his father passed away, Mr. Guerrero made certain this tradition would carry on and started composing poetry, verse and eventually songs for the comparsas. Lucio revealed his secret to a good tune is a combination of waltz, jarana, dansa and corrido styles. He continues to compose for the schools and the San Pedro Lions Club to this day. In speaking of the difference between carnival then and now he stated. "Carnival is different today. Before, it was a time everyone looked forward to as an occasion to have fun. This was probably because there was no TVs or radios. Carnival was grand. The painting was also different. We would use powder or flour only and eggs would be filled with perfume. Probably the most intensive day was on Fat Tuesday when "harsher" painting took place using black soot and "anil" (blue wash). Carnival was a joyous time for all and fights were seldom." Although things are slightly different today, Mr. Guerrero says he is happy that this tradition is alive and well in San Pedro.

    Don Lucio has lived his life setting examples and passing his knowledge on to others. He is a strong believer in family values and high moral standards. Don Lucio's talents help sustain the tradition of fun - celebrating carnival in "Our Community."

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