Sylvia Gilharry Perez

Educator, Cultural and Community Activist

“Fusing our past with the present enhances our existence”

Sylvia Gillhary Perez (1947) is well known among the East Indian communities locally and abroad. Throughout the years, Mrs. Sylvia had strived to recapture the past, and promote and safeguard the Indian heritage through various activities such as cooking, storytelling, pageants and dancing summer camps to mention a few. By embracing her cultural heritage, she continues to give voice and visibility to east Indians in Belize.

Sylvia Perez was born on June 7, 1947 in the small East Indian village of San Antonio, Corozal District. Her attachments to farm life and involvement with her chores in the kitchen, garden and farm kept her closely in tune with her cultural background. She received her teacher education diploma from the Colegio Vocacional de America Central in Alajuela, Costa Rica, her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education in English from the University of Belize and her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from University of North Florida, U.S.A.

Sylvia is now a retired Educator who represented teachers at the national and international levels and also served on the District Educational Council of Belize prior to retirement. Now she dedicates her services as the President of the Corozal Organization of East Indian Heritage (COEICH) and is also a Justice of the Peace for Belize.

COEICH and Community Involvement:

Sylvia Gilharry Perez is the founder and president of the Corozal Organization of East Indian Cultural Heritage. She founded the Non-Governmental Organization to resurrect her East Indian culture for the betterment of the whole society and to recapture her fast fading East Indian culture. In 2013 in order to have the involvement of youths in embracing their culture Sylvia Perez organized the First Miss East Indian Pageant which has become a highly successful event. Sylvia has managed to display Belize on an international stage at the annual pageant that takes place in Trinidad and Tobago. Working at COEICH has also seen Sylvia actively involved in recruiting instructors from Trinidad and Tobago to come and give workshops on dance and cuisine. The Masala Dance group is one successful outcome of those workshops. She has also spearheaded the first International Indian Diaspora Conference in Belize in August 2014, and participated in international fora and conferences where she has been able to network with other cultural organizations to help in the promotion and safeguarding of the East Indian culture.  By embracing her cultural heritage, she helped to give voice and visibility to East Indians in Belize. She has also worked for over 40 years as an educator, represented teachers at the national and international levels, served on the District Educational Council of Belize and chaired her village Council.

International Participation:

  • June, 2011, Indian Diaspora World Convention, Trinidad and Tobago.
  • November, 2011- GOPIO Biennial Convention, New Jersey
  • June, 2013-Legacy of Slavery and Indentured Labour, Suriname
  • May, 2014- GOPIO 25th Anniversary Jubilee Convention, Trinidad and Tobago
  • March 2017, Indian Diaspora Global World Conventio, Trinidad and Tobago
  • February 2019, Kumbh Mela, India

Publications:

  • Sylvia has prepared several articles on the East Indians in Belize featured in GOPIO International and the Kumbh Mela 2019 magazines.
  • She co-authored a booklet along with Palma, Betty and Jessie Wade entitled. 1983. “East Indians of Belize”. Research Paper, Corozal, Belize.
  • She also co-authored Chapter 6, “The Indians in Belize: Remembering the Past to secure the future “along with Dr. Kumar Mahabir in the book Caribbean Issues in the Indian Diaspora.
  • Sylvia is the producer of the documentary film “Artifacts of East Indians in Belize: Remembering the Past to Secure the Future”, under the Director, Dr. Kumar Mahabir.

Awards:

  • In 2002, Sylvia received an award for her dedication and distinguished service as the principal of Eden S.D.A School.
  • In 2015, she was granted a merit for her outstanding service to the society in the field of education by the Federation of Indo Americans of Northern California.
  • In 2017, she received an award of gratitude for her contribution in making Christian education available and accessible to Belizean Youth.

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