Villager concerned about future of Chan Pine Ridge Agricultural Fair
Sunday, February 4, 2024
Please allow me a space in your prestigious newspaper as former Village Council Chairman to express my views and knowledge about the Chan Pine Ridge Agricultural & Trade Fair which is held every year on 9th March.
The Fair dates back to 1966 and was initiated by villagers Tiburcio Gomez, Valerio Torres, Santiago Torres, Gonzalo Torres (all deceased), as well as Eugenio Cob. This committee decided that the fair would be held annually in line with Baron Bliss Holiday and the first fair was carried out at the Amalia Farm on a plot of land belonging to the late Valerio Torres.
At the time when the fair was being discussed, I was enrolled in 2nd Form at Muffles College, so the committee felt that I could serve as the Treasurer. For two years, the fair was a success; then the committee agreed to invite the then Area Representative Hon. Elijio “Joe” Briceño to see if the show grounds could be moved to a much bigger location in the village. A meeting was convened where Hon. Joe Briceño committed his full support to have some 30 acres of land cleared for a permanent show grounds including a race-track and a football field.
The fair eventually became a two-day event and, as the years went by, it began attracting visitors from all walks of life, especially in the North. This was partly because of the unified efforts of the Organizing Committees and the Village Councils to bring in the participation of the OW Jockey Club which was under the auspices of the late Edwardo Martinez. Some of the attractions that were incorporated into the annual event included Farmer of the Year, selection of Miss Chan Pine Ridge, exhibition of crops and livestock, demonstrations by the Canine Unit of the Police Department, mock displays by the BDF, skydiving (parachute jump) by the British Army, cultural presentations by the villagers, presentations by Mariachi artists from Mexico, sports marathons, horse race and live broadcasts by then Radio Belize.
It grieves me to say that, with all this glamour that our annual fair has brought on our growing community, today the existing Village Council and the OW East Area Representative appear to be bent on destroying our rich cultural heritage and way of life. Before the COVID pandemic in March, 2020, our annual fiesta was set aside, and since then no effort has been made by our elected Chairman or Area Representative to bring back this traditional event. As a former Village Council Chairman for almost 20 years, I have become abreast of plans by the Village Council, with support from the Area Rep, to instead subdivide the entire show grounds for lots, when there are areas in the village outskirts that can be cleared for village expansion.
Ms. Teresita Torres, one of our village leaders with Paralegal training and a concerned environmental activist, is spearheading the Organizing Committee in our village and advocating for our annual fiesta not to die a natural death, or so it would appear to be heading. In mid-January this year, Ms. Torres convened a general meeting at the park to present preliminary plans of her committee for the revival of the fair and, even though the Village Council was invited, not one Councilor turned out. Instead, she was served with a letter signed by the Village Chairman informing her that ”we cannot grant permission for the use of the football field and the showgrounds area for the event planned for March 9th and 10th, 2024.”
In the past years, the funds generated from the annual fiesta were used for the general upkeep of the showgrounds, football field, cemetery, health clinic, summer jobs for school students, Mothers’ Day and Christmas programs, small financial assistance to families who have lost a loved one, and other projects that benefitted the entire community and not a selected few.
I thank you, Mr. Editor, for allowing me to educate and inform the general public about the facts surrounding our Agriculture & Trade Fair and the present challenges facing our 1,000 plus villagers of Chan Pine Ridge.
Yours in Community Service,
Mateo Tzul, J.P.
Former Village Council Chairman