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Dancing 25 Years Ago Part 1

Today during a regular week there must be at least ten dances held at various locations. Tourists dance daily. And for a New Year’s Eve night there are up to four bands playing live music all over San Pedro. Dances are as common as going to the store or for a stroll.

Not so 25 years ago. They were really special occasions and when announced, they were attended by the entire village- boys and girls, teenagers, adults and even the elderly. A few of the big events were New Year’s Eve, Easter, Christmas and the annual general meeting of the Caribeña Fishing Cooperative.

The New Year’s Eve dance was in two parts- “Baile de los Casados” and “Baile de los Solteros.” (Dance for married couples, and dance for single persons) Daddy’s club or Marino’s Club usually hosted the Baile de los Solteros and Tio Pil or Felipe Paz of Lily’s Hotel used to host El Baile de los Casados. The dances started at 8 p.m. on the dot with accordion and acoustic guitars and a lot of percussions. Singing was by the power of the throat with no microphones available. By 10 p.m. the dances were in full swing but at midnight they were stopped for all the villagers to go to church for the midnight mass or “misa de gallo”. After Father Raszkowski was finished with mass everyone went home to put on some new clothing as a symbol of the arrival of the new year. By four in the morning the solteros (single) dance would usually be over and some of them joined the baile de los casados. Only then would they be welcome and they would be teased that they were not “machos” like the married men. By sunrise hot chocolate and biscuits would be served to the ladies so that they could hold on till nine in the morning of January 1. (Note that the Lions still try to keep this tradition alive) If the musicians were not so drunk and still with energy, they would put another dance the following night of January 1st.

Another big dance was held for the annual general meeting of our fishing cooperative. This was a biggie with tons of food and beer for the entire village. People jollied all night and fishermen whom you never suspected could dance took to the floor, after all everything was free. Fishermen love to argue about fishing techniques and prowess, so after too many drinks usually a sudden and unexpected fight broke the rhythm of the dance and everyone scattered home with their men. These were big dances usually held at central park or at the cooperative plant or processing room.

Easter and Christmas were also big fiestas for San Pedro. Popular bands like Los Beliceños, Los Cañeros, Los Atlanticos, Mauro y sus Profetas, Glenn Bood, or Benito from Chetumal would provide the music. Central Park was a popular dance venue as well as Marino’s Rooftop.

People danced barefooted. The girls used footwear, but threw them off after a while when the blisters popped up. To make the dance floor smooth and slippery, the men would sprinkle body powder on the floor or candle wax. Mothers escorted their daughter to every dance. The dance halls had to have large windows where moms could lean and watch and doze and snore and wake up and doze again. If mom could not go for whatever reason, then the daughter had to miss the party. All girls sat inside the dance hall and as the music started, the guys would come and select the girl of their choice. The girl could approve with a casual smile or she could say, “Sorry, I am tired.” This would be a lie for if her favorite boy friend came to ask her to dance, she would immediately get up. That was tough disappointment for many boys.

Today things have changed drastically. We danced with a lot of lights- the more the merrier. Today the darker the better. We tried to slide on the floor. Today we try to jump to reach the rooftop. In the past we danced four or five times a year. Now we dance every week, well at least some of us. We used to prefer live bands. Today the youth prefer the disco and the DJ’s. Mothers used to go along. Today if mom offers to go, the girl would rather stay home. But who cares? Everybody still has fun, so let the music continue. As long as you are dancing, it is better than you falling on the floor. (Next issue, dance styles, and the next one, a popular thing at dances called “Paloma” 25 years ago.

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