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Miss Garifuna Pageant 2004

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 14, No. 36            October 21, 2004

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Paula Martinez
 
Kristy Samuels
 
Cindy Valentine
 
Sharlett Welch

Every year, on November 19th, Belizeans countrywide celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day. The San Pedro Garifuna committee has planned special events throughout the month of November in commemoration of this special day. To "kick off" the festivities, coordinators have been hard at work preparing the 2004 Miss Garifuna Pageant.

     San Pedro residents have not seen a pageant of this magnitude since 2000. In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Pageant Coordinator Latifah Maximo said, "Unfortunately, our culture is slowly fading away. We felt that we need to revive our history and to make others aware of the richness of our traditions."

     On November 13th at 7:00 p.m., Central Park will come to life in a kaleidoscope of colors and festive music, as four girls vie for the coveted title of Miss Garifuna 2004. In a brief interview with the four delegates, The San Pedro Sun learned the reason why each contestant is taking part in such an important event.

     Cindy Valentine is a sixteen-year-old student of St. Peter's High School. Following her studies at St. Peter's, Miss Valentine would like to pursue a career as a hairstylist. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music and dancing. "I feel that this pageant is of great importance as it allows people to get a better understanding of my culture. Throughout the night of the pageant, audience members will observe various cultural presentations that depict our heritage."

     Eighteen-year-old Paula Martinez loves her culture and entered the pageant because it gives her an opportunity to teach others about their way of life. "Our culture is so rich with traditions that it is such a shame that it is slowly being lost. I encourage other young Garifuna women to enter pageants such as the Miss Garifuna Pageant so that our culture will not fade," she told The Sun.

     Kristy Samuels is currently attending San Pedro High School. This vivacious fourteen-year-old enjoys dancing and was encouraged to enter the pageant by her mother and sister. "As soon as people hear the Punta beat they associated it with the Garifuna culture. However, most people don't know that there are other Garifuna beats – Paranda and Chumba to name a few. Some Garifuna children don't know their own language, which to me is a shame. A pageant such as this will make them proud of who they are," explained Miss Samuels as her reason for being a part of the show.

     Thirteen-year-old Sharlett Welch is a Standard VI student at the San Pedro Roman Catholic School. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and aspires to further her education at a Culinary School to become a professional chef. Miss Welch understands the importance to keep her traditions alive and had the following message to the people of San Pedro Town, "Come and see the show. You will learn a lot about the Garifuna culture and you will have fun also."

     The Miss Garifuna Pageant 2004 promises to be filled with surprises and many cultural presentations. "There are various dress codes for Garifuna women; there is a special attire for mornings, afternoons, and nights. Audience members will be able to see the differences of each attire on pageant night," commented Mrs. Maximo. A very important rule of the pageant is that the four delegates will only be allowed to speak Garinagu. "The language is practically lost, the youth are no longer learning how to speak it. It is important to keep it alive," said Latifah.

     The committee is also planning a fund-raising event on Saturday, October 23rd, in the form of a food sale. A delicious fish soup made with coconut milk and okra called Hudut will be sold at Central Park at $7.00 a cup. The committee is encouraging everyone to get into the Garifuna spirit by purchasing a cup of this traditional dish. Businesses and people willing to assist the committee with donations for pageant night (prizes or monetary donations) are asked to call Latifah Maximo at 601-8334.



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