Although Simon Biles is an American citizen competing in the Olympic Games for the American women’s gymnastics team, she had more than her fair share of fans in Belize cheering on her amazing success. In bars and cafes all over the small Central American nation, Belizeans gathered to watch Biles and the Final Five compete, erupting in happiness as they watched one of their own perform flawlessly to clinch the team gold medal.
Biles, who is a dual citizen of Belize, and whose grandmother still resides in the country, was a much-needed ray of good news after the country was pounded by Hurricane Earl the previous week. Even Kim Simplis Barrow, the first lady of Belize, was glued to the action unfolding 4,000 miles away in Rio de Janeiro, “Everyone here is talking about the huge stack of medals that Biles is going to win.”
Biles, whose story is now well-known around the world, began life 19 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, born to a single mother who struggled with substance abuse. A few years later, Biles’s mother lost custody of her four children. Biles and her sister were then adopted by her grandfather Ron, who is married to Nellie Cayetano Biles, a citizen of Belize. Although technically their grandparents, Ron and Nellie quickly became the mother and father figures that Simone and her sister desperately needed.
Grandmother, now Mother Nellie, is the daughter of Evarista Cayetano, a member of the Garifuna people who had a long career as a teacher and owner of a small supermarket in Belize. Nellie’s mother, Silas Cayetano, also originally began his career as a teacher but then left to serve as an official in a fishing and agricultural cooperative in Belize. Later, Silas served several terms as a senator in Belize’s parliament.
When Ron and Nellie Biles agreed to adopt Simone and her sister Adria, they already had two grown sons who were in their last years of high school and college. Although the couple had planned on retiring and doing some traveling, they realized that family duty called and the two girls needed a stable environment in which to grow up, so they happily decided to adopt Simone and Adria.
Simone has regularly visited her second homeland to be with family and enjoy fishing and snorkeling vacations. Simone last visited Belize in 2015 when she was on the island of Ambergris Caye to join the rest of her family in celebrating her brother Ronald’s nuptials. After winning the gold medal, Biles tweeted that she intends to vacation in Belize to relax after all of the excitement of competing in the Rio Games.
The management and staff of Chabil Mar congratulate Simone Biles and all of the Final Five for their outstanding performance at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and look forward to joining the rest of Belize in welcoming the young woman who proudly represented Belize on the world stage.
Photo courtesy of USA Today