Carnaval in San Pedro Town: Ramping up for the big finale

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Practicing for Tuesday evening's Fat Tuesday festivities at Carnaval on a side street in San Pedro Town
Practicing for Tuesday evening’s Fat Tuesday festivities at Carnaval on a side street in San Pedro Town

Last night was the final orgasm of Carnaval — the last big hurrah before Ash Wednesday when all hard-partying Belizeans (and many tourists) bow on bended knee this bright clear morning, and with hand chastely held over heart, say to themselves:

“Oh. My. God. What was I thinking?”

I love the joy in this woman's face. That, to me, is the face of Carnaval!
I love the joy in this woman’s face. That, to me, is the face of Carnaval!

This is followed by the solemn vow to give up (fill in the blank) for the next 40 days in contrition for the past few nights of wild festivities and complete denial of personal mortality.

I don’t think the Catholic Church planned Lent to start this way. I think that at some point during the Spanish conquest of the Western Hemisphere or the Roman conquest of Ireland — or maybe the Crusades — they just decided to roll with it. (Later on, the Mardi Gras/Carnaval/Carnival/Viva Las Vegas T-shirt concessions would prove too lucrative to abandon the Nights of Abandon. )

This is just a guess on my part.

Practice! Practice! Practice! For Carnaval!
Practice! Practice! Practice! For Carnaval!

I never learned any of  this as a young Catholic seminarian, but I think the general rule is: Great abandonment leads to great remorse leads to great self-reflection leads to great humility and 40 days of self-denial — which all leads to great tithing.

Or in more secular terms: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

All of which is to say, Rose and I did not bicycle down to San Pedro Town for the big closure party at Central Park. Not the least of reasons being that it began at 10 p.m.

The last time that I stayed up past 10 p.m. was — oh, my god — The Oscars on Sunday night.

No wonder I’ve been so tired and irritable. Like Matthew McConaughey, I feel like I’ve been on the treadmill of life chasing my true hero — who happens to be myself 10 years down the road, which is,  more accurately, at the other end of the treadmill — and ye gods, when did my true hero get so old, bald and paunchy? And look at that fat butt!

Anyway.

I was told this group was "political."  Dying to know here they stand on the issues. Dying to know what the issues are, too!
I was told this group was “political.” Dying to know here they stand on the issues. Dying to know what the issues are, too!

We did cycle into town around 5 p.m.  for fruit and vegetables at Maria’s and a few things at Super Buy. There were signs of the pending celebration everywhere. Like the little girl, no more than 10 years old, who walked out of Super Buy with an entire flat of eggs and a look of mischief on her face that was rivaled only by the looks on the faces of her several co-conspirators.

Yes, yes, I know the Town Council said no egg throwing. Give these girls credit: They were planning to unleash fresh eggs in the Paint Zone. Not like the boys, who have been marinating raw eggs in the sun for days to achieve that special perfume when contact with target is reached.

Here and there some giddy folks, well-smeared in paint, walked the sidewalk as the crowd parted before them like Moses before the sea. Two people were entirely coated in green paint, one was globbed in yellow and a nice shade of creme.

At one intersection, a man jumps out of his golf cart and begins smearing green paint on the head of the driver in a cart passing in the other direction. They laugh, hug each other and exchange a few quips before moving on.

Hey, it’s not like this is the U.S. You can do that in San Pedro and not get shot.

On several streets groups were rehearsing songs and dances for the Comparsaa — nightly song and dance competitions performed as they marched to Central Park. I’ve included photos from two of the groups here.

Can you spot the cross-dressers? (Hint: In the group below, the answer is: All of them.)

Carnaval on Fat Tuesday as the five day celebration was ramping up to a wild finish in San Pedro Town.
Carnaval and Comparsa on Fat Tuesday as the five day celebration was ramping up to a wild finish in San Pedro Town.

As I watched the hilariously dressed and well-lubricated men attempt some sort of circular dance while singing a song in Spanish that sounded oddly, to me, like an ode to divorce the fellow next to me, perhaps noting the quizzical look, said: “Do you understand the lyrics?”

To which I replied: “No.”

“It is a political song,” he said, then added “PO-LI-TI-CAL” in the same way that Americans speak English loudly so that persons of other languages can better understand them …

As I was pondering the political relationship between men and shiny colored wigs, extraordinarily large breasts and very tight dresses my companion started to explain.

“It is political,” he said again, already deep into his personal pathway to Ash Wednesday remorse.

I was about to thank him when something else came up: A very tall policeman.

I’m 6’2″ and he towered over me. In even tones he said to move the bicycle back behind the road barrier, about half a block away. So now I know: Detour signs are for golf carts and bicycles.

Rose and I cycled home where she made fresh barracuda (rolled in breadcrumbs), cole slaw and corn for dinner. After which we read books and tinkered on our newly installed WiFi connection and felt like saying “Life is good” but didn’t because we know that such self-satisfaction is sinful and would led us to be down on our knees on Ash Wednesday with the rest of the island.

And honestly?

I just don’t feel like giving up a thing for Lent this year.

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6 thoughts on “Carnaval in San Pedro Town: Ramping up for the big finale

    Kathy Chavis said:
    March 5, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Experienced a similar weekend in Nassau during re-elections. Your dinner sounds like it was scrumptious! What is the price of fresh caught? Our prices here in NC have sky rocketed.

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 6, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      Kathy, a very large piece of fresh barracuda (ample seconds for both of us) was $10 BZ ($5 US). We also got a large bag of shrimp and a couple of grouper fillets from an iconic roving fishmonger, Fish Johnson, who was bicycling through our neighborhood. The whole purchase came to $30 BZ.

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    Susan Moore said:
    March 5, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    ROTFLMAO. Certainly different than my Ash Wednesday! How about giving up “guilt” for Lent this season? Just let gratitude wash over you! I’ll bet Jesus is just delighted.

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      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      March 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Susan, asking an ex-Catholic to give up guilt? Now that’s a tall order. Embracing gratitude, however, is brilliant. That shall be my path for the 40 days of Lent!

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    […] And this one on Carnaval’s “big finale.” […]

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    […] No quirky and entertaining Comparsas song-and-dance parades. […]

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