Happy Belizean Groundhog Day!
Yes, this is the Belizean groundhog! After a long night of partying at local island bars, people by the thousands politely waited at sunrise along the shore’s rip-rap walls. As the sun peeked over the horizon, spreading warmth and good cheer, scores of iguanas began to climb tentatively out of their burrows and face the sunlight.
Not coincidentally, Sunday marked the end of iguana hunting season in Belize — true story. The newly emboldened iguanas, breathing a little easier on MOnday, but still irritated at being called “Bamboo Chicken” by hunters, are none-the-less ready to make a statement.
On Monday, the public remained remarkably restrained, behind the yellow tape barrier. Many of them were sleeping off the night of dancing and rum punch in the sand. A few sold T-shirts and plastic iguanas on a stick, made especially for the day and hundreds more sold the usual jewelry and woven wallets and bags. Some, mostly tourists, had their faces painted like iguanas and a few even wore full-body iguana costumes and practiced the cool shark moves they saw during Katy Perry’s Super Bowl Half-time Extravaganza the night before.
As is tradition — but for no known reason — dozens of men dressed up as female iguanas, although gender isn’t important when looking for a signal from the lizards about the island’s future.
Local tradition say that if the iguanas come out of their burrows and see cameras in their face, we will have six more months of happy tourism and a plentiful supply of rum punch and Belikin beer … Oh yes, and lots of sunshine, clear blue-green water and cooling breezes.
If the iguanas come to the surface and begin chasing people, shouting garbled obscenities and biting small children on their toes, we’re in deep trouble, and you might consider visiting relatives in the U.S. until this thing blows over.
And if the iguanas come out in top hat and tails, singing an astoundingly well-choreographed version of “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” the crowd goes wild because it knows that the sorgassum will disappear, taking with it all pieces of plastic from the shore, leaving behind those mythical pristine white sand beaches we’ve all heard so much about.
Mind you there are hundreds upon hundreds of iguanas inhabiting the shoreline and it is not unusual for the message to vary from colony to colony. To avoid confusion, the town council every year hires members of its own political party to position themselves every hundred yards or so and record what they observe.
The council then takes the average of all of this data and declares a single unified message from the iguanas. It is no small coincidence that Iguana/Groundhog Day takes place one month before public elections.
One little known fact, every year for nearly a decade, Bill Murray has flown to Ambergris Caye to act as master of ceremonies. Every year around 3 a.m. he wanders over to Back Street and disappears for several days, each time returning with yet another tiny iguana tattoo on an obscure part of his body. He is always deeply apologetic and nobody seems to mind.
With or without him, the future is foretold.
Our iguana/groundhog never fails us.