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Festivals of the Past

The Costa Maya Festival is perhaps the biggest festival San Pedro sees and for some people it does seem like a long festival and only participate in a day or perhaps two. If you tell that to an old timer, he will laugh at you for in the 1930, for example there used to be a festival that lasted up to one week.

One such festival that was the hottest festival at the time was popularly named “Las Mestizadas y Vaquerias”. Las Mestizadas were held on several occasions throughout the year. The first one was celebrated when the chicleros were about to leave the island to spend two or three months in the bush bleeding the sapodilla tree to obtain the rich sap that was to be processed into chewing gum. This particular festival was sponsored by the chicle contractors. A typical festival included music by La Banda de San Pedro or San Pedro’s band, which was the pride of Belize because it had won a national concert at Port Loyola in Belize City. The San Pedro Band played music for several nights and even though the population of San Pedro comprised some three hundred inhabitants, the dances were well attended by young and old, single and married, chiclero or fisherman, rich or poor. Las Mestizadas attracted national attention and folks from the mainland, especially those associated in the logwood and chicle industries. So there was music, dancing, food and rum, of course.

Other Mestizada Festivals were held prior to and leading up to June 29, which was celebrated in honor of Saint Peter or San Pedro who is the patron of this community. Another Mestizada was celebrated on the feast of El Cristo de Esquipulas on January 15, who was a much-venerated saint in San Pedro. And finally another Mestizada Festival was held on the Day of the Cross on the 3rd of May.

For the Mestizadas, all the men were dressed in full white- white trousers, white shirts (untucked), and a red handkerchief tied around the neck. Yes, he wore a hat too and sandals. The women were dressed in their “ternos”, white dresses with a lot of embroidery around the chest and lower part of the dress. They carried a lot of jewelry and a headpiece usually fixed up with flowers. The main event, as expected, was centered on dancing and all the Mestizo dances like zapateado, shotish, jarana, tres pasos, cuatro pasos, and cuadrilla were danced. Yes, there were the ever-popular boleros and waltzes also for the folks to enjoy.

What I am trying to say is how come a small population of some three hundred could really get into a festival and today with all the thousands some people complain that it is too much partying? Maybe we have too many activities and are burnt out. As for the folks in the 1930’s, they were eagerly awaiting the arrival of these Mestizadas, for after that it was straight work and isolation in the bush for two or three months. That’s right, that could foster up your desire for some real action, thus the result of the ever-popular Mestizadas that went on for some thirty years.

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