For Catholics, the festival of Corpus Christi is supposed to celebrate the all-important “Holy Eucharist” (the proclamation of bread and wine) into the actual body of Christ. On that day a special celebratory mass is held in recognition of the sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of all sinners. Corpus Christi falls between late May and the middle of June, on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday, 60 days after Easter.
For most Catholics I spoke with, however, Thursday was another holiday to be celebrated at full throttle, which is to say, the heck with bread and wine, bring on the Chairman’s Reserve!
Indeed the round-the-island partying started on Wednesday evening, including a Calypso tent fete at the National Cultural Centre. Most of the events ended in the wee hours of the morning of Corpus Christi, as I say, a highly revered religious holiday.
It was shortly after 2 pm on the same day that two police officers stormed a popular service station in the north of the island. Armed with an official document and dressed in civilian clothes, they informed the supervisor that his establishment was in breach of a law that proscribes the sale of alcohol on Corpus Christi. The supervisor and her attendants quickly covered the shelves bearing alcohol with bits of cloth, but not the several stacks of cigarettes and other available items. A few patrons in need of beer and other alcoholic beverages were demonstrably irate.
As the officers made their exit, one of the service-station attendants grumbled: “After we done sell so much alcohol already, is now they coming!” I smiled, bearing in mind the well-stocked boozer scores on boat rides and other round the island limes at her knowing all too well, that most of the boozers were already on their holiday limes. All had collected their party fuel on Corpus Christi morning.
Later, I asked a police officer why they had waited so late to strike. “That’s the norm,” he said. “We’d been making the rounds from morning but with so few of us and with so many liquor stores to cover, well . . .”
As for the beach limes and boat rides, he said: “Well you know already, we can’t be everywhere at the same time.” So, at least for some, Corpus Christi was business as usual. Not for nothing are we considered number five in the world when it comes to our consumption of booze. As for our under-age drinkers and potheads, clearly they’re ready to ensure we maintain our status among the drugged-out nations.
Meanwhile, most of the churches I checked appeared near deserted, save for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where the day’s special procession took place. On Friday I sought a reaction comment from Police Commissioner Vernon Francois about OBC (Operation Booze Crackdown).
“It is just a matter of enforcing the Liquor License act of 2008 really, which speaks to closing periods for liquor premises. And in terms of Corpus Christi it’s a time when liquor premises are supposed to be closed for the whole day. Our job essentially is to enforce the law and that’s basically what we did yesterday.”
Asked to explain the “whole day,” Francois indicated the whole 24 hours of Corpus Christi. The law also applied to Good Friday and, if you can believe that, Christmas Day.
As for the problem of boozing minors, “Well,” said the commissioner, “that is something we have been working on, particularly as it relates to minors in school uniform.”
Added Francois, it is not practical to have a police presence everywhere. “We have identified the problem, for example at the Gros Islet Friday Night parties, where minors purchase alcohol and things like that. The way we have decided to tackle it is this: together with the district representative Emma Hippolyte, we hold town-hall type meetings with people from the community to decide the way forward.”
Just last month, the Gros Islet MP Emma Hippolyte said in parliament how appalled she had been at the gruesome sight of under-age girls “gyrating and boozing during Gros Islet Jazz.” Judging by the conspicuously absence of table-top banging, Ms Hippolyte’s fellow MPs were not all that impressed. Her railing against gambling joints all over the city was similarly greeted by her government colleagues who, after all, make a pile from gaming activities, whether involving under-age drunks or under-age females who also shake their developing booty in the most shocking fashion. After all, what would our most revered cultural showcase be without the near nudity, the open boozing and the shaking like there was no tomorrow? Clearly, for many Saint Lucians the priests can keep their bread and wine, they are far more interested in the harder stuff!