When San Pedro Town Mayor, Daniel Guerrero, hinted about the idea to make some changes to the way that Carnaval in San Pedro was celebrated, many residents raised their voices in protest.
“How can the Mayor even think of changing the way we have been celebrating Carnaval over the past 80 years?” This was the consensus amongst the die-hard Carnaval revelers who have been embracing and keeping the tradition alive for generations.
They could not even think of changes to the way they came out on the streets to paint each other or danced in the comparsas (street dancing groups); why did the Mayor want to restrict such long-standing traditions?
The thing is that San Pedro went from a small fishing village to a highly commercial tourism town right beneath our eyes without anyone realizing that it happened in such a short period of time. Development came fast and Western influences soon started to change our lifestyles. Keeping our tradition and cultural identity has become a challenge. How can we keep our customs, traditions, culture and folklore alive in these modern times?
Carnaval is such a big celebration in San Pedro, Belize, and it is one of the most unique in the entire country, heck, in the entire world. Going out on the streets to paint your friends with water paint and cracking raw eggs on each other’s heads is so much fun for many, both young and old.
Dorian Nuñez along with Travel Writer Erin De Santiago covering Carnaval
But along the years the painting has gotten a bit out of control with complaints of vandalism to buildings, business signs and private property. Children are not being careful when they are squirting paint out of a squeeze bottle and others are just malicious. Mayor Daniel Guerrero had been listening to the complaints of tourists and business owners who suffer large losses from vandalism, so he tightened up on some of the Carnaval rules, primarily restricting the painting to only Barrier Reef Drive (Front Street) and that of the beach in downtown San Pedro.
After much debate and compromises, rules were set in place and they proved to be very efficient. Painting was restricted in one area and those residents who wanted to avoid getting painted were free to walk on the two other main streets of town. The presence of traffic wardens helped with the comparsas and direction of traffic with all the closed streets.
The presence of the police could have been stronger, but they did a good job. They are needed out there to keep as much control in the streets. It’s a massive undertaking but with proper planning and more education, vandalism can be reduced and children can come to learn to respect others and private property.
Getting a little painted during San Pedro Carnaval coverage
Got caught by surprise by one of the dancing revelers
Tourist couple enjoying the painting fun of Carnaval
Carnaval is a great festival in San Pedro and with proper planning and more promotion it can become one of the best festivities in the country. I met a lot of tourists who were having a great time, getting painted and dancing along with the comparsas. There was a young couple from the United States who planned their honeymoon around San Pedro’s Carnaval after doing some research on Ambergris Today’s website. They immediately recognized our staff members and expressed to us how delighted they were of visiting during such a great event in Belize. They urged us to keep the tradition alive as it was something so fun and unique for them.
It was very satisfying to see all the tourists and lots of residents enjoying San Pedro’s Carnaval. It would be great for the Belize Tourism Board (BTB), the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) and the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) to work on heavily promoting Carnaval as a major festival/event in Belize. San Pedro can work on fine tuning and organizing more activities during the 5-day celebration and Belize can have and market another superb culturally, historically and ethnically rich festival.
Photo op with Don Juan Carnaval
American expats Erin de Santiago and Brittney O'Daniel enjoyed partaking in the street dancing comparsas
Sun sets on the last day of Carnaval celebrations in San Pedro Town
The streets of San Pedro come alive with Carnaval Celebrations