A rich historical past inherited from their Mayan ancestors and array of leisure activities await you in Chetumal. Enjoy the impressive, turquoise and jade hues of the bay, the nice, gentle breeze that blows up and down the streets, the sweet songs of the migratory birds, and the hospitality of the locals that will be more than glad to share a little of their joy for life through their traditions and celebrations.
Those not familiar with Chetumal, might think that it is just a border town, or at best the doorway to Mexico or to Central America. Even travelers dazzled by the splendor of the world- class resorts of northern Quintana Roo, acknowledge the invaluable wealth of this tropical paradise, home to the second longest reef barrier of the world, but then again, Chetumal is much more than that.
Chetumal is like a canvass on which a master painter has captured the greenness of the rain forest, the whiteness of the beaches, visited only by the local fishermen, the brightness of the colors of the wildlife, and the distinct architecture of the wooden houses with their red, slanted, roofs in the style of 'Old Chetumal'.
It is said that Chetumal was the birthplace of the first mestizo in America. When the Spanish soldier Gonzalo Guerrero and the Mayan princess Zazil Ha fulfilled their love for each other and conceived their first born. A fact that adds an air of mysticism to the already rich, historical legacy of this town.
The War of Castes, an ethnic conflict that broke out between the Mayan Indians and the white European settlers of the Yucatan Peninsula, would forever change the fate of the then, peaceful and unexplored land of Chetumal. Due to the constant trafficking of arms between Belize and the insurgent rebels in 1898, the Federal Government sent Othon P. Blanco, Second- Lieutenant of the Army, to establish a customs post that later became the town of Payo Obispo. The hope, the expectations, and the hard work of those first men and women helped set the foundations for what eventually would come to be Chetumal.
In the following years, being a border town enabled Chetumal to base part of its economic progress on the trade of goods between Mexico and Central America and on the exploitation of its natural resources such as, the production of natural gum resin from the gum tree, as well as timber of the many tropical trees which were in great demand abroad, for the making of fine furniture.
Despite the political conflicts going on locally and nationally and the adverse, climatic conditions, Chetumal continued its economic and social growth non-stop until 1955, when Hurricane Janet struck the area. Most of the original, wooden houses were destroyed and the area was devastated, forcing the population to move away temporarily to gather resources and eventually rebuild their town.
From the 1960's and 1970's on, Chetumal started to look as it does today, with its parks and town squares, its historical monuments and landmarks, modern and efficient roads and highways, and many other services, like hospitals, schools, nightclubs, malls. The well known duty free zone, officially declared in 1974, has established the tax-exempt trade of basic and luxury commodities.
Various cultural and social expressions join these two cities, a common border that provides the means of transit from South and Central America to Mexico, culinary customs, music styles such as Reggae and Punta Rock, the 'Pasacalle' and the 'Calabaceado', two folk dances, tropical weather and vegetation, even urban planning is similar; just to mention a few of the common factors shared by both of these cities.
It has been the people, from both countries, that have strengthened the bond between these two cities even more. Because of their comings and goings across the border to get to hospitals, schools and clubs, among other places, they have fostered some cross-cultural families that love Mexico as much as Belize.