If Belize was founded on anything, it is the heart of its people. A love of nature, a sense of patriotism that drives the desire to protect, preserve and BE Belize…these are the things that make our people the most valuable resource of our tiny Central American/Caribbean country.
Our historians, who hold on to stories told from generations ago and treasure souvenirs of our past, happy to share a glimpse of what was, and what made Belize who she is today…Our educators, beyond four walls of a classroom, instilling the lesson that we must never stop learning, to students taking the lead and growing up to become soldiers, tour guides, chefs, conservationists, activists, revolutionists…at times quietly, but always, driving change and betterment of our country, one person at a time.
These are the people we celebrate; these are the people we present to you in 2015. How did they become who they are? What do they do? When they’re not at their ‘job’, what are they like? How can we learn from them? Enjoy learning about some of the wonderful characters that make Belize so rich and diverse!
Silvina Novelo de Moh – By Janelle Cowo
They say that dancing is more than just moving one’s body; it is a fundamental part of life and who a person is. Silvina Novelo de Moh is one of the few Belizeans that has made her life revolve around dancing. But not any kind of dancing, the 63-year-old is a proud Mestizo who has been teaching traditional cultural dances for the past 26 years. Affectionately known as “Tia Cheb”, she has taught many generations- including me- the traditional dances of one of Belize’s most vibrant cultures!
Born on February 26 1951, Silvina is an original resident of the village of San Jose Nuevo Palmar, located in the outskirts of Orange Walk Town. Like anyone with a rural upbringing, Silvina learned all her skills from her mother, 99-year-old Dolorez Novelo, who is also a dancer. “My mother used to tell me about her experience dancing Mestizadas. I used to love hearing them, it got me excited [to dance too].”
Silvina recalls how she got inspired to start dancing after seeing her mother practice in their kitchen and dancing in all the village fairs. “One of the most significant memories I have is that of my mom participating in the Fiesta De San Jose. She danced for three days and nights and looked simply beautiful in her Huipil (traditional Mestizo dress) with her make up on, her hair in a bun elaborately decorated with flowers and all the jewelry. She was a true Mestizo woman and I wanted to be like her!” The Fiesta De San Jose still lives on today, and is celebrated from March 17th to the 19th. The festival was also my inspiration, and I have participated in the dances since I was a little girl.
Today, Silvina is the proud instructor of 12 children from the village that are starting to learn the dances. The group travels across the country, having performed everywhere from The Bliss Institute of Culture and History to the Mexican Embassy in Belize, and even here in San Pedro. “When I see my children dancing, I am so overjoyed. Teaching this skill, which I am so passionate about, warms my heart and I feel accomplished.”
“Not one day in my life have I regretted the path I chose. Dancing is at my core, and I hope to continue teaching the next generation for many years more. To all the youth, treasure your heritage and culture as it can only live on through you.” Silvina is a true inspiration to everyone that has the opportunity to learn under her tutelage. Her passion for the dance is evident in the young children she teaches. Even as a past student, my affection, respect and awe from her remains intact and her teaching will remain with me always.