Elsy Soriano wins Miss Garifuna San Pedro

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 9, No. 44            November 18, 1999

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Miss Garifuna San Pedro Elsy Soriano
Contestants for Miss Garifuna San Pedro
Pageant organizers Julia Martinez and Joseph Elijio

November 13th, 1999, will go down in history as the date when the first Miss Garifuna Cultural Pageant San Pedro took place. A huge turn-out savored the taste of the rich culture unique to the Garifuna. The large crowd waited patiently for this first time event to commence and received much more than they had bargained for as the pageant surpassed everyone's expectations. As anticipated, the stage was beautifully dressed with coconut palms, banana leaves, ground food, Garifuna utensils, drums and of course, the Garifuna flag. The theme for this year's celebration translated to "The Garifuna Nation is One Culture, One Roots."

    The sound of the drums announced the commencement of the pageant. This was followed by, what was to most, the first time they heard the singing of our National Anthem in Garinagu. Master of Ceremonies was Mr. Sebastian Cayetano, a respected teacher and author, residing in Belize City. Mr. Cayetano also did the English translation of the pageant's Garinagu language along with Miss Kainie Manuel who translated in Spanish. The President of the Garifuna Association of San Pedro, Mr. Thomas Martinez, gave the welcome address and a brief history of the committee's formation years ago. The Mayor of San Pedro, His Worship Alberto Nuñez, then addressed the public and the committee. During his address he expressed his admiration to the organizers of the pageant for putting together the event. He ended by saying that events of this type bring us together. "I wish that this pageant continue for many years," he ended.

    The contestants Elsy Soriano, Lucy Velasquez, Margarita Medina, Iris Velasquez and Amancia Martinez were judged in five different categories. They were scored on their fluency in the Garifuna language; how well they danced to the beat of the drums in the various dances and the question and answer segment. The girls first appearance and introduction speech was done dancing to the beat of Hungunhungu. The Chumba, the Garifuna's creative dance, was the second dance the girls performed followed by the Punta. At this point the contestants were asked individual questions pertaining to the Garifuna history. The ladies' last chance to impress the judges was with their individual talent presentation. Each candidate chose a dance or monologue. Elsy depicted an old woman and danced to the Paranda. Lucy danced to a creative Punta dance portraying an old man with his macapal (a gathering bag). Margarita and Iris danced to the Chumba, while Amancia danced and portrayed a women living in poverty and the sufferings she had to undergo to survive.

    The members of the San Pedro Dance Company added spice to the pageant with their dance rendition of the "Dances of the Decade." Mrs. Julia Martinez, pageant organizer and a past Miss Garifuna 1987/88 title holder, made a special story-telling presentation. Michelle's Dance Group paid tribute to the Garinagu with a beautiful dance performance. The popular and humorous John Canoe and Matamuerte dance gave the audience a sample of two different  dances of the Garinagu.

    The ladies came out a last time as the Master of Ceremonies announced the first Miss Garifuna San Pedro. The title went to Miss Elsy Soriano with Miss Iris Velasquez as the first runner up. Elsy receives a roundtrip ticket to the United States, courtesy of Travel & Tour Belize and a host of other prizes. All the participants received great consolation prizes including gift sets, jewelry, household appliances and trips. The decision was well received by the audience. The difficult task of choosing the winner was in the able hands of Ms. Sylvia Arana and Mrs. Isabel Cayetano of Belize City; Ms. Lucy Garcia, Mrs. Olga Valentine and Mr. Charles Nuñez of San Pedro. All the contestants were presented with bouquets and received thunderous applause from the public. After the pageant, the contestants accompanied by a large crowd moved  to the Black and White Reggae Bar where the celebration continued with live drumming, dancing and delicious food. The official crowning of Miss Garifuna San Pedro will take place at Garifuna Settlement Day ceremonies, November 19th at Central Park.

    The pageant was very well-organized, full of culture and extremely entertaining. Special thanks to the San Pedro Town Board, Victoria House, The Tide's, Black & White Reggae Bar, Sea Tech and Toucan Gift Shop, sponsors of this event. Very special thanks go out to Mrs. Julia Martinez and Mr. Joseph Elijio for all their hard work in putting this marvelous event together. Their numerous hours of preparation are appreciated. Congratulations to Elsy Soriano, San Pedro's first Miss Garifuna.

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