In Memory of Vilma Romero
It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Mrs. Vilma Romero, one of Belize’s best and most productive artists. In tribute, we offer this gallery, with remarks by Debra Wilkes of the Corozal House of Culture, and ending with the poem that Joanna Magaña wrote for Vilma Romero.
From Debra Wilkes of the Corozal House of Culture:
It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Mrs. Vilma Romero; the mother of Art in Belize. Sculptress, artist and one of the kindest souls who devoted her life to creating art up until her time of passing. On behalf of the National Institute of Culture & History, we send our deepest condolences to the Romero family. Her great legacy will live on through her sculptures which are on permanent display throughout the country of Belize. For those who are not aware of her accomplishments please read her biography below. Rest in Peace Vilma you will be dearly missed.
Vilma Romero was born in Belize City in 1938. She attended Holy Redeemer and St. Catherine’s Academy where she studied art under Sister Mary Bridgette. At age 18 Vilma married and moved to Corozal. In 1966 Vilma began to explore her artistic instincts in various media - watercolors, oil painting, wood carving, metal and stone sculpture. This while finding a balance amidst contradictory tensions – the bearing, rearing, feeding and education of her children, running a household, human relationships - the normal female occupations that in general run counter to creative life. The eternal female problem of how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life It was around this time that she began to develop and forge an indigenous art form of her own. In September 1991 'The Ethnic Group" was unveiled in Belize City at the entrance from the Northern Highway. It was hailed as a Welcome to Belize and part of a beautify the City campaign. It consisted of life-sized figures. Four men represented the Maya, Creole, Mestizo and Garifuna, the tallest sculpture - a woman - represented the East Indian ethnic group. A majority of city folk thought the sculptures came from Mexico, but it was Vilma’s work.
Vilma’s work is all over Belize even though most Belizeans are not aware of this. Have you looked at the larger-than-life-size monument of Issiah Mortar in south side Belize City?
The bust of Antonio Soberanis in Belize City’s Central Park overlooking the Belize Supreme Court?
The bust of Santiago Ricalde in the Corozal Town Central Park?
The sculpture of T.V. Ramos in Dangriga?
The life-size statue of a Belizean soldier at Independence Plaza in Orange Walk Town?
Or the Bookworm sculpture at the Leo Bradley library?
These are creations from Vilma’s hands.
She is a cancer survivor; in the past she opened her studio to the primary and secondary school art classes in Corozal Town in the hope of fostering the development of art among young people.
In 2010 Vilma was recognized by the National Institute of Culture and History as Female artist of the year. Over the past eight years the Corozal House of Culture has exhibited her work at the annual Arte con Voz de Mujer Exhibit and in 2019 we honoured her with a solo exhibit of over 30 pieces of her art.
She is considered the Mother of Art in Belize.
-- Debra Wilkes