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Sep 6, 2012

The History of Carnival in Belize Part 2

The origins of the Belizean carnival have been traced back to 1975 by Researcher Lawrence Vernon. The event is now firmly in the calendar of activities for the month of September; it didn’t get there by sheer luck, in fact there were conflicting views on where the bacchanal would best fit because it was quickly evolving.  That settled, the big break came when the local bands were invited to the grand Miami carnival.  Freelance Reporter Duane Moody has part two of our carnival series.


Duane Moody, Reporting

The revelry was not without controversy and according to Arguelles; things started changing after independence in 1981. A difference of opinion, she says, is why we now have a road march and a uniform parade as separate events on the September calendar.


Soli Arguelles

Soli Arguelles, Original Carnival Organizer

“That’s when they started saying no we’re going to have two parades, the tenth of September people and it broke up your diligence, I wanted one parade. Then Mr. Bennett, rest his soul, that was Hart Bennett from the Port and he was of the same opinion. We were of both different political parts but we came together and we said we’d like to do some marching, we wanted to make the uniform parade something pretty and that’s when the idea came that we would leave the frolicking marches for the tenth and do the uniform parade for the twenty-first. We also had a time when there was a big ruckus because they didn’t want the carnival attitude on the tenth of September because the little old ladies wanted to do their parade on the tenth. And then these girls, in that era, it was getting too pompous for them you know, the girls were dressing in these fantastic costumes, we got people creative and competitive and I thought it was good but then we ended up with three parades and to me Belize [City] is too small for three parades. We stretched ourselves too thin that we were exhausted; for twenty-one days I was tired.”


Still, the carnival continued to evolve and later in the eighties, Belizean groups got to experience it on a much larger scale when they were invited to participate in Miami.


Lawrence Vernon, Researcher

“I think it was in the 1980’s, 88 or somewhere around there, we were invited to Miami, the Miami carnival group and we sent carnival groups from Belize to participate in the Miami carnival and this continued for a few years and for some reason it died out. But that was good exposure for our carnival groups, especially in terms of not having to be dedicated to a special choreographed step or a special austere costume and the movements of course when those groups came back to Belize, influenced quite a lot of the other groups to participate in carnival.”


Karen Vernon, Carnival Reveler

“I’ve been actually maybe three or four times. The group back then used to actually work at trying to get the entire group over there, ship the costumes ahead of us, even to the point of trying to get visas for some of the persons who didn’t have visas to travel. And that time, they used to have excursions to carnival from Belize to Miami so you know you used to get a cheaper flight. My first experience, I mean I got to Miami and of course I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was going to be bigger and better but not anything on the scale that I experienced. One of the things that I remember about carnival, apart from the beautiful costumes and colors was the vibration of the music, the big trucks with all the speakers. We weren’t used to all of that here and I think all that evolved and we have reached that point now.”


Karen Vernon

The experiences abroad and influence from the Caribbean eventually changed the look of carnival in Belize. The costumes, in particular, became more elaborate… but also more revealing.


Karen Vernon

“I remember a year we had on a leotard and tights under the costumes that we used to use so you know it was definitely much more covered up. I think we got into that revealing stuff when the groups started going to Miami for carnival and seeing what carnival there was like and then we started to use the swimsuit, two piece or full piece depending on your choice. And it was then that things started to get revealing and more so today it is.”


Lawrence Vernon

Lawrence Vernon

“The costumes I believe have become more innovative because at one stage we actually had people from the Caribbean coming in to show us how to make costumes and especially the bigger costumes that they use today for the king and the queen and they also use to parade through the streets. I should mention first of all that the tradition of carnival goes way back. It came down through North America, Canada, into South America, the Caribbean and eventually reached Belize. We adopted what we thought would have suited our purposes in carnival and as I said earlier the costumes were just very modest, very austere compared to today where they have become more revealing. So over the years, to more embellish the image of carnival to make it more attractive, the costumes followed suit. As I said, today we have more revealing costumes which some people might have objection to but it is an attraction in streets and you can see from the crowds that line the streets that it has become over the years a real crowd pleaser, so to speak.”


Misty Williams

Even today, the mas bands continue invest more time and money in their costumes, especially those for the king and queen competition. A younger reveler, Misty Williams, has been involved in the carnival for the past ten years and she says the different groups are still molding their individual styles when it comes to the costumes.


Misty Williams, Eternity Mas Band

“I’ve been in since 2002 in a junior carnival band, Mahogany Masqueraders, I think that was the first time they came out. I danced with them two years and then I was not in the carnival itself participating because we were a junior band, until we had our own band Eternity Mas Band in 2007. But in the meantime, I was still a part of the junior band, making costumes and doing the whole nine. Maybe the only thing I think has really changed would be the costume making because from then certain things were like almost everybody used to make the costumes the same way, the same—almost the same concept of getting it together. I think now we have really stepped it up in Belize and we’re trying different things with our head pieces and our body pieces. So costume wise, yes it has and I think throughout the years you can see the change in the way it is being made and stuff. But other than that, it’s the same thing, the same feeling, the same everything to me.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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4 Responses for “The History of Carnival in Belize Part 2”

  1. Rod says:

    This is the biggest waist of money in the country we have nothing to celebrate absolutely nothing except death destruction and corruption.

  2. Surgery14E says:

    Rod, you really need to learn how to spell and do something constructive. Maybe you should relocate to another country and take your complaints there.

  3. Rod says:

    Surgery I hope when you loose your job or you or one of your family members are robbed or shot at I hope you the talk the same thing you idiot.

  4. whylistentorod says:

    Rod is an illiterate. He says “waist” of money. Rod is a waste, a child with access to internet who stays up until 11 at night waiting for the news to be posted online. Why listen to a child?

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