On Sunday evening, February 22nd, the San Pedro Town Board held opening ceremonies, a parade and cultural displays to kick off the celebration of Carnival 1998.
Master and Mistress of Ceremonies were Mr. Angel Nuñez and Ms. Vilma Villanueva. The evening's activities started with a short parade through Barrier Reef and Pescador Drive. The San Pedro High School Band, Lichie's Box and comparsas from the High School, The San Telmo Batch Girls and the Youth Turtle Shell Band, Lidia's Institute of Fine Education, St. Peter's Elementary and the R.C. School paraded and danced.
Later in the evening at Central Park the cultural presentations program commenced with the singing of the National Anthem. Town councilor Eiden Salazar addressed the crowd briefly and said, "Carnival makes San Pedro unique. It is our traditions and culture that make San Pedro what it is today." Mayor Alberto Nuñez gave the welcome address and reminded the Carnival participants of the tradition of Carnival and of their ancestors that brought the tradition with them from Mexico many years ago. The keynote speaker, PUP Standard Bearer for Belize Rural South and a Carnival organizer, Miss Patty Arceo encouraged the crowd to enjoy themselves but to act in a responsible and respectful manner. She also welcomed Mr. Kuo Hsiung Shen, the Ambassador to the Republic of China, and his wife to San Pedro and said that Town Board will work towards having the participation of the Dragon in next year's Carnival. Mrs. Paz Cervantes, Director of the Cooperation and Culture Mexico- Belize, was also welcomed and thanked for arranging the visit and participation of the Mexican Dance group in Carnival 98.
The main presentation of the evening was the guest cultural presentation from the Instituto Technologico de Balet Folklorico de Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico. (This group is the same group that represented Mexico at the Sea & Air Festival 1997.) The group gave three presentations, depicting various types of traditional dances from different areas in Mexico. The program came to a close with a musical presentation by the Bombastic Culture Band.
On Monday, February 24th , high school, primary school and the "Los Barbies" (the male Barbies) comparsa groups danced through the streets. Households and businesses that the comparsas danced for presented them with cash donations. Carnival painters also started their painting.
On the final day of Carnival, Tuesday, February 24th, painters and comparsas shared the main streets of San Pedro Town. A parade, lead by Lichie's Box, started the evening's activities. The parade ended at Central Park where the organizers of Carnival 98 addressed the painted revelers. Mayor Nuñez and Patty Arceo congratulated the crowd for carrying on the tradition of Carnival in a respectful manner and encouraged them to continue to uphold the tradition. Town Councilor Pete Ayuso addressed the group briefly and told them that he was very happy to see the Carnival participants enjoying themselves. Pete Ayuso was also a member of the "Los Barbies" comparsa group.
Competing comparsa groups gave their final presentations and the winners of Carnival 98 were announced. All the primary schools that participated received an assortment of school stationary and supplies and $150.00. The junior winners are: from the San Pedro Roman Catholic School, Teacher Asinet Ayala's class, Teacher Paulino Pineda's class and Teacher Loreni Itzab's class; the comparsa group from Lidia's Institute of Fine Education and St. Peter's Elementary. In the senior category there was a tie for second place between the San Telmo Batch Girls and the San Pedro High School comparsa group. Both groups received $250.00. The first place prize of $400.00 was awarded to the "Los Barbies" comparsa group. Carnival 1998 activities closed with a short parade through Barrier Reef and Pescador Drive.
On Ash Wednesday, February 25th, "Juan Carnival" was burned at the old football field. "Juan Carnival" is a stuffed dummy that represents a very rich man who tells tales on people and is to be burned by celebrants at the end of Carnival. In past years, before Juan was burned his will was read to the public. In his will Juan publicly announced all the bad deeds committed by people in the community over the past year. There would be no calling of specific names but nicknames and clues were used. For example if a man had an affair with another man's wife then "Juan Carnival" said something like, "To my great grand nephew 'Timmy' I leave 5 women so that he doesn't have to steal some other man's wife." At the reading of the will and burning of Juan, his five grieving wives/widows (men dressed as women) would be present weeping over their poor doomed husband. "Juan Carnival" acts as the conscience of the community after the satanic feast of Carnival and his death marks the coming of Lent and of restrictions and sacrifices.
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