For June 29, Dia de San Pedro, there has always been the “Misa de Mañanitas”, or the early morning mass for men only. Twenty five years ago we used to fill up the church and had some standing room only. I recon there used to be about 250 men at mass. Just a few years ago we garnered some 100 men and we thought that was poor. This year there must have been between 40 to 50 men at the Misa de Mañanitas.
Twenty five years ago we did not have any three-day fair with mechanical rides. No, we only had the mass, the procession around the village with the statue of the patron saint and of course a holiday, for the day was indeed a local holiday for Ambergris Caye only. The stores and bars were all closed down for that day and people did not go to work, even if fish and lobster were in abundance. Now this year there were hundreds and hundreds of people at the fair. How come that place is full and the church is not. Your guess is as good as mine, but we can certainly see the inclination for social aspect of the festivity versus the spiritual side. The mass is for the older folks; the fair is for the young.
The procession was also an awesome sight to behold. It was as long as two or three blocks with the men dressed in full black and white. There were older men and teenagers, and even children. That is how I remember those processions, when I used to go along with my father. I complained that my feet were tired, but my dad kept hold of my little hands and said: “It does not hurt you if you go and play.” Men used to volunteer to go and back the statue of Saint Peter as Tio Dolito shouted at every block: “Cuatro cargadores mas” (four more carriers). Today don Lucio would holler for four more helpers after two or three blocks for there are only a few men at the procession. What is the matter, Sanpedranos? Is the procession and prayers only for the older men? Can’t we pass on this lovely tradition to our teenagers and children? Is Corey McDermott the only gringo who can attend this local traditional mass and procession? Can’t we bring to church and into the culture others who have chosen to make San Pedro and Ambergris Caye their home? It is a shame that some people accept San Pedro, but only in part, not in its full splendor and culture.
Even the ladies who participate in the nine-day novenas of prayers have complained that it is “THE SAME FIVE LADIES” who attend mass every night. When Mrs.Vilma was alive, she used to pull the crowd out to church, and even the children were dressed as apostles alongside St. Peter for the religious festivities. What is the matter? Aren’t there more women leaders to honor San Pedro? Twenty Five Years Ago is not complaining but this is certainly one area in which San Pedro was far better off 25 five years ago. But let us not complain. Let us do something next year. I’ll give you a reminder before June 29, 2004.