Pandemic changes the way San Pedranos celebrate carnaval
Wednesday, February 17th, 2021
Compared to previous years, El Gran Carnaval de San Pedro was celebrated this year with far less fanfare. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no street comparsas or painting in downtown San Pedro and no beach parties associated with the anticipated annual festivity. However, the traditional event was privately celebrated, and those fond of the comparsas were still able to enjoy them virtually during the three-night celebration from the 14th to the 16th of February.
Families enjoyed painting parties at home while Town Councilor Flora Ancona with her comparsas group performed at Ambergris Stadium. They virtually offered the missed entertaining dancing usually enjoyed on the streets each night of the three-day festivity. The other two comparsa groups who typically take part, San Pedro AIDS Commission and the popular Barbies (men dressed as women), were absent this year.
Carnaval- an island tradition for generations
Islanders have been celebrating Carnaval since the mid-1800s, a tradition settler brought with them after fleeing from the Caste War of Yucatan, Mexico. The tradition has changed throughout the years but remains a fun annual festivity enjoyed by Belizeans and visitors. The highlight of the three-day carnaval is comparsas (dancing groups on the streets) with children and the young at heart engaged in painting each other.
The comparsa groups perform themed dances in colourful outfits, and onlookers line the main streets of downtown to cheer and enjoy the dances. One of the most popular of all is ‘Los Barbies!’ These are men comically dressed up as women and dancing through the streets. The performances are usually a parody of a local or international occurrence. During the dancing, a donation is always welcome as most comparsas collect funds for a charity of their choice.
The celebration usually comes to an end on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day lent season. On Wednesday, the carnaval closes with Don Juan Carnaval’s burning, the patron of the festivities. The burning is believed to rid the island of bad energy and attract prosperity to San Pedro. The pandemic might have changed the celebratory ambiance of one of San Pedro’s oldest traditions, but residents look forward to a fun and enjoyable carnaval in 2022.
Que Viva la Tradicion! Que Viva el Carnaval!
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