Ambergris Caye, the largest Caye in Belize, loves nothing more than to celebrate. Whether its beach parties at Easter, Lobsterfest in June or parades for Independence Day in September, there is always something fun going on. El Gran Carnaval which takes place every year the week before Lent is one of the local favorites.
The history of Carnaval goes way back to 12th Century Europe when people took to the streets to celebrate with masks and eat and drink as much as they could before Lent. The tradition was brought by The European settlers to the Yucatan peninsula and eventually over time, to Northern Belize and the small village of San Pedro. Today, San Pedro is the only town in Belize, that continues to celebrate Carnaval. Over the years the celebration has changed somewhat, but many of the original traditions remain.
This year for the first time, Carnaval will open on the Saturday evening with a Parade through town, Mardi Gras style, theme of “Mejorando la tradicion. The parade will be followed by a block party with live music and booths selling food and drinks. La Reina del Carnaval will also be taking place. This is the 6th year of this popular event showcasing 5 lovely ladies in a sport, swimwear, evening wear and a talent competition.
On Sunday afternoon the painting starts! The tradition of painting has evolved from the European wearing of masks, and anyone not wearing one in the street, would get painted. Today, Painting is a major part of Carnevale enjoyed by children and adults alike and in the last few years a foam party in the evening adds to the fun.
Whilst revelers paint in the streets, the Comparsas make their way from house to house along the downtown streets. Following the tradition, they dress up in brightly colored costumes, sing and dance and act out satirical skits on current events, sometimes global, sometimes national or sometimes related to events in San Pedro. Our very own Mrs Flora Ancona, who has worked for Tropic from the very first day, heads up one of the most famous of the Comparsas . She has been singing and dancing her way through Carnevale for over 25 years.
Painting and Comparsas alike continue through Monday and Tuesday. Tourists are welcome to get involved and be painted. Don’t worry a quick dip in the ocean will have you cleaned up in no time.
Carnevale comes to an end on Wednesday, where an effigy of Don Juan Carnaval is burnt in order to dispel any negativity or bad luck from the island.
San Pedro’s El Gran Carnaval 2019 runs from Saturday March 2nd to Wednesday March 6th.