Carnival, I love you so
The smiles are almost as big as the feathers. All the ladies are in stockings, covered in jewels, beads swaying to the socca rhythm. Men, with shields on and spears in hand. Kids, dancing to choreographed steps. It’s Carnival! The joy is truly palpable! Everyone is out for these September celebrations. The entire village lines the road- young and old- to watch the parade go by. Golf carts are decorated, transporting villagers costumed in the country’s colours. Babies are chewing on strings of blue and red beads and wearing hats that say ‘You Betta Belize it!’. Every day pickup trucks have been transformed into floats, with flags flapping from their windows, carrying waving matriarchs and pageant winners and pulling a trailer with the DJ and his speakers. And behind each trailer- the Troops! As any Independence Day should be, Carnival is truly representative of what it is to be Belizean. The love of fun is first and foremost. Dancing is second. If you’ve never had the awe-inspiring experience of watching a Belizean woman punta dance, this is the perfect opportunity to rectify that oversight in your life. It’s incredible. Their knees coming together and apart, like butterfly wings, and their waists gyrating in such a way that their asses seem independent of their bodies. There’s squeals of delight, hoots of laughter, clapping and slapping and hollering. For a lot of the participants, however, the festivities actually began months in advance (all those incredible headpieces and suits are handmade!) and then officially kick off two weeks before on September 10th with the Battle of St. George’s Caye Day. This day is meant to recognize the efforts of the Baymen (resident British woodcutters) and their slaves as they fought off the Spaniards in their final attempt to take claim present-day Belize. September 21st commemorates the day that Belize was granted independence from Great Britain in 1981 and the celebration begins with J’Overt. At the stroke of midnight, in villages all over Belize, individuals dance in the streets (yes, just hours before the main parade in the pre-dawn hours) and get covered in paint, mud and condiments, all while drinking and dancing to socca and raggae music. Then, after not enough sleep, the Carnival parade starts just south of the airstrip, around 1:00 in the afternoon. In true Belizean fashion, the parade then takes its sweet time coming down the road. Pausing every half mile to repeat their dances, the troops perform their routines for four hours or more as they make their way to the main pier. Belize City and Orange Walk are most noted in the country for their Carnival celebrations, but Placencia holds it’s own in the south! It’s my favourite time of year- a time when everyone comes together to celebrate the heritage of this fun-loving, colourful and bountiful country we call home. For a taste of my personal favourite Carnival songs, check out “Patrice – Old and Grey” or “Destra Garcia – Lucy” on You Tube. They’re sure to help you get in the festive spirit! See you pon the roadside in September, Placencia!