On this, the busiest weekend of the season on Ambergris Caye, the bars stopped serving liquor at midnight. The stores stopped selling liquor, too. If you didn’t have it on hand by midnight you won’t be able to buy a drink for the next 24 hours.
In fact, most everything is closed today. Employees who work must be paid as much as triple-pay.
It is Good Friday and this island of mostly Catholic residents takes this day very seriously.
It is a day for reflection, devotion, prayer and family.
Which is why at 3:30 a.m. I am bicycling through dark and deserted San Pedro streets to the Roman Catholic Church.
At 4 a.m. the congregation leaves the church confines and traces the path of Christ’s final day in mortal form through the Stations of the Cross.
The modest little church is ocean front property, on Barrier Reef Drive, next to Central Park and Big Daddy Disco. The courtyard already holds a couple dozen men and women, sitting on benches, chatting, catching up with old friends.
Not surprisingly, everyone speaks Spanish. The entire service will be in Spanish as well. My Spanish consists of apologizing for not not knowing Spanish and asking the speaker if he or she speaks English.
Sad, isn’t it?
Just the same, the language of devotion and the story of the agony and ecstasy of Christ is universal. Just as it was when the Church spoke only in Latin to its people.
Here, watching as men traded off the carrying of the life-size cross and women lead prayers and songs at each station, the draw of faith and tradition is unmistakable. No more so than as I watched a couple stand arms entwined around each other’s waists as they prayed aloud.
The ceremony speaks its own message: Faith will keep us strong. Faith will give us community.
I felt oddly displaced as one of the very few non-locals present and as the second tallest, if not tallest, person in the crowd. (I’m self conscious about stuff like that and try hard not to block the view of those who stand behind me.)
Some day, I imagine, I’d like to earn the privilege of helping to carry that cross. It would say a few things, not the least of which is “I now belong.” I fantasized about this as we looped the town on Barrier Reef Drive and Pescador, perhaps 50 strong.
As we walked and prayed, I fantasized that the woman who seemed in charge came to me and said “Please, would you like to take a turn carrying the cross?” Thanks to my traditional Catholic upbringing I would have insisted that I am unworthy, a sinner, an outlier.
She of course would respond, “My son, did Christ not say that those who lift the burden from the shoulders of my children shall see Heaven?”
To which I would have to humbly respond, “Then bring me the burden of the faithful, for though I am not worthy, I bear strong shoulders.”
Well, that’s just my pre-dawn reverie. Sometimes it is worth getting up at 3 a.m. for a bike ride to town.
Happy Easter to you, however you may celebrate the season. Even if it is tonight’s midnight-to-dawn raves at the local nightclubs that celebrate the reopening of the bars and the fresh flow of booze.
Below are some photos from the pre-dawn Stations of the Cross in San Pedro Town, mostly in chronological order:
I took the beach route home after the service and was rewarded with my first San Pedro sunrise in the two months that we have lived here. Our home faces the lagoon (west) side of the island so sunrises haven’t been a big priority.
They might be from here on in. The morning light is brilliant as it streams across the iridescent blue sea and basks all the buildings in a red and orange glow.
There is no end to what waits to be discovered here on Ambergris Caye, our new home.
A San Pedro sunrise sampling:
More Good Friday: Here is a post this morning from Rebecca at San Pedro Scoop who left the island for the western-most town in Cayo District, Benque, near the border with Guatemala, where Good Friday is celebrated quite differently.