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Fishermen cleaning the day's catch on the Caribbean Sea coastline

The settlers who came from Mexico brought with them their Spanish Language, Catholic and Mexican traditions and a rich culture. The official language of Belize is English and most islanders speak and understand English but the main language is still Spanish. The Maya that some of the present settlers' ancestors once spoke is no longer spoken.

Islanders also speak Creole, a language or dialect derived from the English language. Due to the influence of Maya, Creole and English languages, most of the islanders speak today what is known as "kitchen Spanish" - informal Spanish that incorporates English, Maya and Creole words. An example is "pullar". The word comes from the English root "pull" and adds a Spanish suffix "ar". The English definition is "pull".

The Mexican settlers also brought with them a distinctly rich culture with traditions comprised of Spanish, Mayan and Catholic elements. Many of these traditions are still followed today. Some such of these is the observance of religious feast days and celebrations such as the Lenten Season, an important aspect of Catholicism; regular attendance at Church especially at Easter and Christmas and the celebration of Sacraments. Easter Procession and Novenas (prayers) are spectacular annual events and have the participation of almost the entire local population of San Pedro Town.

Another common tradition that continues today is that of naming children and places after Catholic patrons and Saints. Most of the new settlements and developments are named after Saints: e.g. San Pedro - Saint Peter.

Quinceanos

Escorts and maids entering San Pedro churchOne of Ambergris Cayes most loved and spectacular events is the Quinceanos celebration. This celebration is Mexican in origin and is basically a "coming out" party for a young girl who turns fifteen. Similar to that of a sweet-sixteen party, the purpose of the Quinceanos was to announce to the community that the young girl was of a marriageable age and informed prospective husbands that the girl was available.

Although Quinceanos celebrations are still carried out today, girls at fifteen are no longer advertised as fit to wed; instead, the meaning symbolizes the girls passage from childhood to adulthood. She is dressed in a magnificent gown usually white and similar to a wedding gown. She has an escort and several maids with their escorts are followed by her friends and family to the town's Catholic Church. At the Church a special mass is held and a ring is blessed by the presiding priest and presented to the girl.

Other traditions involving courtships and marriages have also changed over the years. In the past a young man interested in courting and possible marrying a young woman had to comply with certain rules. He had to ask for permission from the girl's parents to visit her at her home in the presence of all family members. The visits lasted no more than a few hours. If a girl attended a dance she had to be escorted by her parents. This has changed considerably and most young men and women intent on marriage have the freedom to conduct their courtship for the most part without the interference of parents or guardians.

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