Celebrate at the Costa Maya Festival in Belize this Summer
The International Costa Maya Festival is Belize’s largest cultural celebration and a joyful celebration of Mayan culture.
Set in a paradise-like island at the point where the Mexican Riviera Maya ends and the Central American Costa Maya starts, the Costa Maya Festival in Ambergris Caye is a truly international celebration. It brings together the Mayan World and the Central American countries that form a part of it.
Keep reading to learn more about the celebration, its history, origins, and purpose, as well as its multilingual nature, and the events and activities that take place during this colorful festival.
What is the Costa Maya Festival?
Every summer, in late July or early August Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, transforms itself into a hub for cultural events, beauty pageants, music concerts, and much more during the International Costa Maya Festival.
Taking place in the town of San Pedro, the Costa Maya Festival has become Belize’s biggest cultural event and a successful magnet for Latin American pop stars and tourists alike. Some of the famous artists and personalities that have participated in recent editions of the festival include American singer Becky G, the Mexican-American group Kumbia Kings, the Dominican group Los Ilegales, Venezuelan Ricardo Montaner, and Mexican Pablo Montero, among many others.
History and Origin
The first edition of the Costa Maya Festival was held in 1991 under the name of “Sea and Air Festival.” The idea was to organize a series of aquatic and aerial activities alongside cultural and entertainment events.
However, the air part never really took off, and soon the organizers decided to change the name of the festivities to International Costa Maya Festival.
Purpose of the Festival
The eight countries that form the Mundo Maya (Mayan World) were invited to participate in a celebration of their shared Mayan heritage.
Since its inception, the celebration has been enriched with participants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama—and of course, the host country Belize.
A non-profit committee is in charge of organizing the festival. It was created with the purpose of promoting goodwill among Central American countries and boosting Belize’s tourism industry.
What Makes the Costa Maya Festival So Special?
Let’s dig deeper now into the series of events and traditions that take place during the Costa Maya Festival, as well as some of its most unique features.
Although English is the official language of Belize, in practice, the country is one of the most multilingual ones in the Americas.
A majority of the population speaks Kriol, which is a Belizean version of English. Mestizos in the country speak Spanish, while Mayans speak Yucatec, Mopán, and Kekchí. You also hear African-based Garifuna, German Plautdietsch, and even Mandarin.
This multilingualism is a reflection of Belize’s rich history and diverse culture. However, during the San Pedro International Festival (as the Costa Maya Festival is also known), you hear mostly English and Spanish.
Belize is surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries, and many of the participants in the festival come from these countries, which makes it a Spanish-speaking festival, too.
As proof of this, all you have to do is look at the name of the festival which is a mix of English and Spanish: International Costa Maya Festival. Costa Maya are Spanish words that mean “Mayan Coast.”
Fabulous Events and Traditions
Although there have been some years when the Festival Internacional de la Costa Maya en Cayo Ambergris has taken place in July, it’s traditionally held during the first week of August. The festivities start on a Tuesday and the festival ends the following Sunday with an all-night party filled with music and dance.
One of the major events during the festival is the Miss Costa Maya International pageant, which usually takes place on Friday night with participants from the eight Mundo Maya countries mentioned above.
Saturday is the festival’s main evening with the International Night event taking place. During this event, the biggest international artists take the stage for a night of awe-inspiring concerts and musical performances.
Sunday is the last night of the festival. The finale includes a mix of everything that has taken place during the week, with gastronomy tastings, folkloric dances, cultural exhibitions, and an all-night party with Latin rhythms and exotic dances.
See also: The Ultimate Music Vocabulary Guide in Spanish
One of the most unique features of the Costa Maya Festival is that every participating country gets a night to showcase its culture and gastronomy, making the festival a truly international experience.
Other activities taking place during this colorful festival include soccer marathons, beach volleyball tournaments, lobster cookouts, mechanical rides, and beach parties!
Things to Know Before You Go
The International Costa Maya Festival 2020 edition was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and organizers have yet to make an announcement regarding the 2021 edition. Be sure to check the official website of the International Costa Maya Festival or follow their Facebook page to keep up with any updates regarding the events calendar and future editions of the festival.
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Learn Spanish and Travel the Americas
Although Belize isn’t strictly a Spanish-speaking country, the Costa Maya Festival is in great part a Spanish cultural celebration. Many of the participants and performers come from Spanish-spaking countries, and you hear and dance to the music of Latin rhythms such as salsa, merengue, reggaeton, and cumbia.
Actually, being a native English speaker and a Spanish learner make you the perfect attendee at a bilingual event such as the Costa Maya Festival. If you’re planning to visit Belize, consider visiting its neighboring countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, to explore the fascinating Mayan World and practice your Spanish skills. Even in the U.S., there are 41 million native Spanish speakers. (In fact, the U.S. is the second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world!)
Sign up for a free class with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. They teach more than 24,000 actively enrolled students every month and have been providing reliable Spanish services for over 10 years.
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