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Benque House of Culture honors leading prayer women

Posted: Friday, March 12, 2021. 10:22 am CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: On the occasion of Women’s Month, the Benque Viejo del Carmen House of Culture (HOC) is honoring women of Belize’s most western town.

On Wednesday, March 10, 2021, the Benque HOC recognized the work done by five leading prayer women of the town, namely Carlina Pacheco, Jean Santos, Erguida Aldana, Oralia Alvarez, and Maria Bejerano Martinez.

Nayeli Yacab, Benque HOC coordinator, said the awards were to have been given out last year in March on the occasion of Women ‘s month but had to be delayed because of COVID-19. Adhering to the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ guidelines, Yacab said that she personally had to visit the women to give them the plaques in recognition of their contributions in keeping Benque’s culture alive.

The Benque House of Culture said that “the cultural life in Benque has been rich and strong because many women have assumed various roles to preserve customs and traditions ensuring that these are passed on from generation to generation.

“Too many times we take it for granted and just enjoy the festivities or social gatherings, but behind such initiatives these women have been pillars,” Yacab said “They visit from home to home, sharing their time, organizing, and leading religious and cultural activities.”.

According to the Benque HOC, doña Carlina Pacheco has been the leading lady for the Posadas and Alboradas for more than 30 years. She visits families and seeks support for who will be hosting the nine days celebrations of Alboradas (early morning devotion) on occasion of Our Lady of Mount Carmel festivities in July and the Posadas leading up to Christmas, annually.

Doña Jean Santos “has dedicated a lifetime to serving her community through Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and participates daily in organizing Mass and laying the necessary elements for its celebration.”

Doña Erguida Aldana, for over three decades, has been the lead voice of the choir that is accompanied by the Benque marimba during Sunday Masses, special occasions, weddings, funerals, ‘quinceaños,’ and anniversaries.

Doña Oralia Alvarez has dedicated her lifetime to leading prayers and novenas, particularly Novenas de los Difuntos (Novenas for the dead), 40-day novenas, and novenas de ‘Acabo de año’ (End of the Year).

And doña Maria Bejerano Martinez is one of the youngest pillars of the Benque culture. She is now the leading lady for the Alboradas prayers, which are done at the break of dawn annually for ten days, from July 7 to 16 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Hundreds gather daily to celebrate Benque’s patron saint Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She also leads prayers at different homes during Finados, prayer services leading up to All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2. These celebrations are popularly known as Day of the Dead celebrations throughout Latin America. Bejerano Martinez also serves as leader for the Divine Mercy Novena during Easter.

Yacab said that the Benque House of Culture has more awards to give out on the occasion of Women’s Month in recognition of enterprising women and the Benque Marching Band organizer.


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