Her Excellency Froyla Tzalam was sworn in as Belize’s third Governor General on 27 May 2021, taking over from former Governor General Sir Colville Young. The ceremony took place at the Government House Belize House of Culture in Belize City. Her appointment has been in the works for over a month now, ever since Sir Colville Young demitted office at the end of April. With approval from Buckingham Palace the transition was completed with a ceremonial passing of the flag, as Tzalam took up the post as representative of the Head of State and the most senior diplomat in the country, Governor-General of Belize. Mrs. Tzalam is the first Maya Indian to become a governor general in the 54 member countries of the British Commonwealth that spans Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. Commonwealth countries are diverse, they are amongst the world’s biggest, smallest, richest and poorest countries. Belize is a member of the British Commonwealth with HM Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. The governor general represents Queen Elizabeth II in Belize.
In her inaugural address Tzalam stated “I am honoured to stand before you today as a Belizean Maya Mopan woman and to express my deep appreciation 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. For us in Belize we’re 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. As someone who has been vocal and passionate about our culture and history and looking at how society is organized the office of governor general can provide a platform for unifying our diverse voices. I will do my part to empower Belize at all levels from the individual to the national. Many roots people and others have expressed their pride and happiness in seeing someone like them reflected in the highest office in Belize. All children can now aspire to be a Governor General, no matter their background.”
Biography of Belize Governor General Froyla Tzalam
A Mopan Maya woman from San Antonio, Toledo Belize, Froyla Tzalam stands proud and strong in both the Maya and Western worlds. As a Mopan Maya leader, she strives to forge awareness and acceptance between the Indigenous and Industrialized communities. This undertaking is only more critical now against the looming backdrop of climate change. Froyla believes that all people must know their history in order that they protect and promote their identity and culture. She is driven by a conviction that the modern descendants of the ancient Maya can be justly proud of their heritage and can use that knowledge to contribute to addressing and overcoming modern day challenges.
From a young age, Froyla has been dedicated to her work in culture, history and indigenous rights. She authored Learning To Read And Write in Mopan Maya, as well as numerous articles on culture and identity. She was co-director of the African Maya History Project for which she co-authored the book Belize New Vision, African and Maya Civilizations. During her time with the National Institute of Culture and History, she curated numerous exhibitions on Belize’s culture and history. Froyla was a member of the task force for the Belizean Studies programme that is now being implemented nation-wide in secondary schools.
Before taking the helm at the Sarstoon Temesh Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM), an NGO that promotes the rights of indigenous people while preserving tile natural resources and heritage of our country, she completed a report Gender Equity among Q’eqchl Maya Women. Her findings deeply influenced her work as the first woman to lead SATIM. Froyla has served as the chair of two umbrella organizations and her work resulted in formal participation of NGOs on national committees and the strengthening of community-based organizations’ governance to ensure accountability.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Rural Development from the University of Sussex. England and a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Trinity University, Texas. Her many interests include farming, forest vegetables, cooking, sewing, DIY projects and current affairs. Froyla is married with two children, Yasil and Yanil Tz’ak.