Senior Citizens Reminisce

Senior citizens at Lions Den remember San Pedro of days gone by

As a part of Dia de San Pedro Celebrations, a special evening was put together for the senior citizens of our community. The Lions Den was colorfully decorated to welcome those special persons of San Pedro. Throughout the course of the evening, slowly but surely, the guests started to arrive. The purpose of the evening was to reunite old friends to reminisce about days gone by. The gathering was serenaded with golden oldies by The Golden Voice of San Pedro, Mr. Oscar Aguilar who was accompanied by Dale Wallace and Emilio Rivero Jr. During the evening the gathering was treated to snacks followed by dinner and dessert.

The highlight of the evening was when the seniors were put into groups to speak with seven individuals about various subjects of San Pedro's past. The lucky persons which these wonderful people shared their information were: Mrs. Pinita Verde, Mr. Gach Guerrero, Mr. Ruben Gonzalez, Mr. Dorian Nuñez, Mr. Angel Nuñez, Mayor Alberto Nuñez and Mr. Felix Ayuso. After a very interesting session full of information each facilitator of the group was requested to present it to the whole gathering. Unfortunately only two of the topics were presented, since BEL and Mother Nature decided we should all have an early evening. Nevertheless everyone enjoyed the time they spent together.

The following is the information that was shared by Mrs. Norita Haliday, Mrs. Lalita Cocom, Mr. Florencio Acosta Sr. and Mr. Carmen Cocom. The topic discussed was SOCIAL EVENTS. The group emphasized four events: Serenades (parandas), Dia de San Pedro, Weddings and Carnaval. Please note that these topics might be remembered in more detail by others but this is what the group shared.

Serenades: Serenades (parandas) were a romantic tradition very common in San Pedro many years ago. A young man who was interested in a girl would gather a group of his friends equipped with guitars and sometimes other hand instruments and visited the girl's home during the night. The purpose was to sing a special song to the young lady thus expressing his interest in her. The girl was not allowed to go out, but would peek through the window. This was very exciting and an honor. Mrs Norita recalls, "That time the girl's heart would beat faster, especially if her mother did not like the young man." This would take place about 11:00 p.m. "There was no electricity at that time, only kerosene lamps (kinkes)," commented Mrs. Cocom. The young girls didn't go out much at night because of the lack of electricity. They waited expectantly for the full moon to be able to go out. Mr. Carmen Cocom commented, "The youth today don't practice this tradition. It is a shame."

Dia de San Pedro: The celebration of our Patron Saint, St. Peter was a big social event then. The festivities would begin on June 21st and culminate on June 29th. During the day they would have Baquerias, and Mesti- zadas during the evening. There was something called "La Alba" which would commence at 3:00 a.m. People would go from house to house to look for young ladies to dance. They would go out accompanied by music with a band consisting of approximately 40 musicians. They would play Zapatiados and dance "El Torito." The dancers would wear a white "hipil" with colorful embroidered flowers. Many people from Belize City would come for the festivities. Two boats from Belize City that frequented the island during that time were "La Fricola" and "Romulo." After all the celebrations, on the 29th of June, after resting during the morning, the whole village would come out in the afternoon for the procession of St. Peter. This would commence at 5:00 p.m. sharp from the R.C. Church. Four men at a time carried the statue on a raised platform. The procession would go very slowly in respect to the patron saint. A very common tradition would be that if someone had fallen sick and had asked St. Peter for help, after recuperating, would carry the statue as a form of thanks.

Carnaval: Carnaval was a fun time in San Pedro. The most fun thing was the "comparsas." Both boys and girls would practice a month before the three-day celebration. Mrs. Cocom recalls clearly that the Muñoz's were excellent dancers. Mr. Florencio Acosta Sr. commented, "I remember dancing during that time. It didn't matter if the girls were a little heavy, when it came to dancing they were as light as a feather and as graceful as a swan." The comparsas consisted mostly of Cubanitas, Meztizadas, Negritos and Estudiantinas. The last day of carnaval was reserved for "El Torito." During those days, the girls could not be painted unless permission was asked. When painting occurred, it was done with perfumed powder. Raw eggs were not used then, only perfumed egg shells. Carnival lasted the three days and three nights before Ash Wednesday. A fun character involved during this time of the year was Don Juan Carnaval. This was a human size puppet which was stuffed with dried grass and burnt on the seashore. A comic scene would take place at this time. A man would dress as Juan Carnaval's bride and would read his will. This was done in a comic and very discreet way to ridicule some people on the island. For example, if "Tom's" girlfriend left him for another guy, the testimony would ready something like, "In his last will Juan Carnaval leaves "Tom" six girlfriends so that he can get over that last one."

Weddings: Weddings were somewhat different back then. Before marriage, the man would ask permission to visit the girl. He was given a six month period in which he had to build his home, pay for the girl's dress and other expenses. The ceremony would take place at 5:00 a.m. and was followed with a breakfast at the bride's house. After breakfast, preparations for lunch would begin. Both families would help by giving chickens, turkeys, etc. for lunch. A typical wedding lunch would consist of either tamales or relleno. After lunch, the party would continue throughout the afternoon and sometimes late into the night. The bride would wear a typical white dress which would be sewn in Belize City or in San Pedro and the groom wore a suit called "Cola de Pato" or "duck tail" because of its shape. During the party the men would celebrate by drinking white rum. Women were not allowed to drink then, nevertheless, wedding celebrations were always fun.

Senior Citizens Reminisce

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