|With great assistance and hard work, Eli Pearly has initiated
two of the big tourism movements in the country of Belize.|
The San Pedro Costa Maya Festival initially started as the Sea and Air Festival, a festival which aimed to bring Central American countries together and enjoy camaraderie at its best. The culture exchange, as well as the traditions passed on, is priceless. Having people from all walks of life enjoy Belize to its fullest for a full week of planned activities was the initiative of a handful of people. One such person involved is someone we proudly honor in the week’s Our Belize Community. Not only was she instrumental in assisting with the inception of the Costa Maya Festival but of the change in wedding laws in Belize. Because of that change, destination weddings are a big boom in our small island. We present Eli Pearly.
Eli was born in Australia to Rachel, originally from Israel, and war soldier Australian Henry Wheeler. She remembers vividly taking summer camping trips around the United States of America and Canada along with her family which consisted of three girl siblings. At the age of five, the family moved to The Valley in Southern California which is where she received her education. Shortly after college, Eli decided to visit her mother’s roots and took the fateful move to Israel. For the following three years she lived in the Northern part of Israel where she studied Hebrew and worked in a Kibbutz – a farming community. She later went on to work at one of the hotels in town. There she took care of the front desk and any other job needed of her.
Eli returned to Southern California and soon was blessed with a beautiful daughter, Johnna. Soon after she was born, the family moved to Hawaii in 1974. Living in Oahu for a small period of time, the girls later went to Maui where they lived for the following nine years. In Maui, Eli moved into the architectural business assisting in building 200 custom homes. “It was a beautiful place to live; people were so welcoming, and a wonderful place to grow a child. I remember Johnna, blonde little girl, dancing the hula with the rest of the native children,” she reminisces.
After the stint in Hawaii, Eli returned home to Southern California and for a small period of time ran a photograph laboratory. In 1989, is when she discovered Belize. She was asked to assist with the architectural piece of what would be known as the Banyan Bay located next to Mar de Tumbo. Eli worked arduously in getting it off the ground and making it a reality. Years later this well established resort is known as Banyan Bay.
Eli later on went to work at the Belizean Hotel which is known now as the Essene Way. “I wanted to remain on the island, so when I was offered the job, I simply could not resist,” she commented. At Belizean Hotel she would manage the nine villas and one suite as well as assist guests in any way possible. A visit to Honduras for a wedding changed the lifestyle in San Pedro forever. During that trip to Honduras, Eli as well as several friends attended the Festival Folklórico of San Pedro Sula where each of the Central American countries participated, with the exception of Belize. From information gathered on this trip, Eli and the other returned and vouched to form a committee to work on a festival, one which would attract not only visitors from the country but international visitors as well. The committee was formed and they came up with the idea of inviting the Mundo Maya countries to gather at a festival in San Pedro to share their musical and cultural diversities. They were hoping to attract many visitors to the island, who would arrive by way of private aircraft or sea vessel, so they named the event The International Sea & Air Festival. The first festival kicked off in 1991, sixteen years into it, the now Costa Maya Festival is going stronger than ever.
Eli remained at the resort for the following two years after which she went to manage the Victoria House. While at the Victoria House, she attended several Wedding Conventions, a particular one being in Jamaica.
A major deterrent in having destination weddings in Belize was the British Law which required either the bride or groom to be in the country 15 days prior to having a wedding license granted to them. Eli wrote a proposal and after receiving a phone call from Kevin Gonzalez agreed that three days was enough time to be in the country before the license could be granted. “In those days, destination wedding were not as big as they are now. It only made sense to make the most of it. To have one or both members in the country fifteen days before was not working. After writing the proposal I am glad that government agreed with me and had the laws changed,” she explained.
Today, Eli remains with the Paz family and works managing the Banyan Bay Bottom Time Dive Shop as well as the Banyan Bay Gift Shop. Aside from running the day-to-day activities of both shops, Eli loves spending time with her two grandchildren, Lauren (10) and Casandra (6) and her loving partner Vidal Castillo.
Eli has fallen in love with San Pedro’s beauty and peace and has enjoyed pushing the island forward. With great assistance and hard work, she has initiated two of the big tourism movements in the country of Belize. Eli Pearly has made this island her home, her love, her passion and strives to keep moving “Our Belize Community” forward.