BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 27, 2021– For the first time in Commonwealth history, an indigenous woman currently holds the office of Governor-General. Her Excellency Lady Froyla Tzalam is the newly installed head of state for Belize — the direct representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
H.E. Lady Tzalam was officially sworn in as Governor-General today. She is the third person to hold that high office in the country and, as previously mentioned, the first indigenous person to do so across the Commonwealth.
H.E. Tzalam has played a pivotal role in defending and promoting the indigenous Mayan culture and in the development of the African-Maya History Project.
She previously served as the executive director of the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) and recently as the managing director of the Tumul K’in Center of Learning, before being appointed as the new Governor-General.
H.E. Tzalam, a Mayan woman originally from San Antonio, Toledo, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and a Master’s in Rural Development.
Her ascension to this high office marks a historic milestone for the country.
At her inaugural ceremony, there was all the typical pomp and circumstance that accompanies such conferrals of power, but there was additionally an elegant undertone of indigenous Mayan tradition which added extra depth and luster to the day’s events.
The acting Chief Justice, Madam Michelle Arana, administered the oath of allegiance. Lady Tzalam repeated the declaration and signed a document that contained that declaration in printed form, then officially began her tenure as Belize’s new Governor General.
“I am honored to stand before you today, a Belizean Mopan woman, and to express my deep humility and gratitude for this recognition. I am very aware of the responsibility that comes from holding this office, and I will do my work as I have done elsewhere, with passion and commitment to do good to the best of my ability. I must acknowledge my predecessor, Sir. Colville Young, and Lady Young for their unwavering commitment to Belize for nearly three decades of service. Their love of music created a legacy which has been recognized by so many,” H.E. Tzalam said as she addressed those who attended the ceremony.
She thanked the current administration for recommending her for the post and her family and friends for their unending support.
“I want to thank the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceno, and his Cabinet, for their trust in me, to serve in this high office. I also want to thank the many Belizeans who have expressed their delight and support on social media and [personally] to my appointment. Many roots people and others have expressed their pride and happiness in seeing someone like them reflected at the highest office in Belize. All children can now aspire to be a Governor-General, no matter their background. It has truly been a humbling experience and a symbol of Belize’s maturity. I also want to acknowledge the people, who over the years, shared advice, experience, and support. I am here because of them. I acknowledge my mother; my tat [father], Florentino Tzalam, Sr., who passed away 30 years ago, but I feel his energy and love,” she further remarked.
She then went on to state, “While the installation of a Mopan woman as a Governor-General can be seen as a historic milestone, it should not be seen as willfully ignoring our colonial past. Rather, it is a new chapter in Belize’s evolution as a country for all and by all.”
She further said that she hopes to carry out more than her constitutional duties and to become a “visible thread” bridging the communities across the country and the government.
“For us in Belize, we are beginning to understand that there is more than one way to live, more than one way to talk, more than one way to see reality,” H.E. Tzalam said.
She added, “Being the first Maya Governor-General, I intend to work with all individuals and bring a message of hope and a call to action.”
She ended by speaking of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still being faced by the world.
“Lastly, as all your faces are hidden by a mask, it is a visible sign that we are still in a pandemic. I wish to express heartfelt condolences to the families and friends who have lost loved ones to the disease. We must continue to be vigilant,” said the newly appointed Governor-General.
The handing-over of authority was done by acting Governor-General, Stuart Leslie, following H.E. Tzalam’s first royal salute. During that portion of the ceremony, her eyes remained fixed on the Belizean flag that was raised. After that colonial ceremonial exercise, the new Governor-General participated in a traditional deer dance.