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Carnaval de San Pedro 2023

A 150-year-old tradition originates in Mestizo culture

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen
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Get ready to be sprayed with paint during this vibrant week-long celebration in San Pedro! Carnaval de San Pedro (Fiesta de Carnaval) takes place every year, during the last week before Lent, on Ambergris Caye, the largest island of Belize. This folklore tradition, which dates back to the 19th century, blends the Caribbean and Spanish traditions. Paint and flour fights, music, and dancing are the main highlights of the festivities.

During this holiday, which takes place in downtown San Pedro, local men often dress up as women. Participants also engage in group dances, called “comparsas.” People from all over Belize flock to the carnival to participate in painting contests, flamboyant parades, and street parties.

The first day of the carnival is dedicated to the color white and to children. They paint their faces white and engage in color fights without adults. The second day is reserved for red and blue paint, while the fourth day, dedicated to Juan Carnaval, is marked with black color. On the last day of the festivities, chaos rules the streets of San Pedro, as people pour natural paints and flour over each other. Oil paints and eggs are not allowed during color fights.

San Pedro Carnival was first held in the 1870s, originating in eclectic mestizo culture. Its main character was Juan Carnaval, who according to the legend made love to many women from different countries before he was killed by his jealous wife. In modern times, the puppet of Juan Carnaval is burned as a symbol of redemption to purify the community before Lent.

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