Chetumal, Mexico

Chetumal City, Quintana Roo Mexico – On The Belize Border

Why do we discuss it? First and Foremost, Medical Care. Yes, Corozal and Orange Walk can handle most issues, however when it comes to anything major. Its Chetumal. The facilities are state of the art. Personally, my family is number 1, and if we do not feel conformable with the local diagnosis its Clinca Carranza for us. Their hospital supports a city of 300,000 people, almost as many folks as reside in all of Belize.

For Shopping, they have Malls, Markets, Home Depot, Chedraui, Sams Club, Walmart, and so many more stores on Avenida Heroes alone then you would care to count.

Restaurants, well, in Mexico they never seem to close with casual and fine dining abounds on Bahia Boulevard and throughout Chetumal.

All this just 15 miles from Corozal Town by land. We at Cerros Sands prefer to go to Chetumal by boat as some do from town, docking is right near Sam’s Club. From Cerros Sands it is just over an 8 mile boat ride.

In Chetumal, Spanish is their primary language. However in the last couple of years I am finding more waiters in Chetumal that were trained in their Tourism Vocational Schools and speak very fluent English. If you are shopping for something special, I do recommend you bring a friend who is fluent in Spanish.

Downtown Chetumal City Avenida de Los Heroes where it intersects with Carmen De Merino street. This is the heart of Chetumal. Bust at right is of Mexican hero Andres De Quintana Roo from whence the state takes it name.

Chetumal is at the midpoint between Mexico and Central America where converge the more exotic of two geographic regions and cultures. Chetumal city practically sits at the border with English-speaking Belize, formerly British Honduras. Highway 307 links Chetumal with Cancún (5 hours approximately driving time) and with other points on The Maya Riviera.

Its name comes from Chaktemal by way of chakte’: the Maya name for “red tree” or “bad tree” depending on various interpretations. The Chakte Kok tree, scientific name Sickingia Salvadorensis, grows abundantly in the cradle of Maya civilization – Belize, Guatemala and southern Mexico. The wood is a beautiful mahogany color when cut, but rapidly oxidizes to a dull brown color, reason why perhaps the Maya called it bad wood. Chaktemal means Place of abundant chakte’. Modern historians now believe that the original Chaktemal was on the other side of the Rio Hondo, in present day Belize.

Highway 186 stretches to Escárcega and continues on to the state of Campeche. To reach Chetumal from Merida, the capital of Yucatan, take highway 184 to Felipe Carillo Puerto, and then highway 307. There are direct flights to Chetumal from Mexico City, Cancún, Cozumel and Merida; and ADO bus connections to Belize. From Belize travelers can reach the western border of Guatemala and from there to Flores (Tikal), and points further inland in Guatemala.

In Quintana Roo important historical events took place in our modern history, starting with the Spanish Conquest and ending with the definitive dissolution of the Maya Empire. Southern Mexico begins in a landscape of tropical rainforest on the coast – land of the jaguar, monkeys and exotic birds.

El Malecon boulevard lines the coast of the city overlooking Chetumal Bay.

The City of Chetumal is relatively young. It was established a little over a century ago. At that time it featured many small English-style wooden houses due to the British influence of neighboring Belize and the were very unique in the region. Later came commercial success to the city, as it was a Free Zone for over 20 years and distributed imports at economical prices. Chetumal had no marine port but used the port of Belize City to trans ship and import vast quantities of cargo destined for the Yucatan and points in the Mexican interior. This provided a valuable source of income to Belize for many years. This however came to an end when Belizean politicians decided to substantially increase demurrage charges on Mexican trans shipments of cargo. Mexico then decided to build its own deep water port at Merida cutting off the trade from Belize.

Thanks to its new found wealth Chetumal City evolved into the state capital. The city fathers of Chetumal then decided to take the city out of merely a commercial center into its place as the gateway to the Maya world. Numerous Maya sites have been excavated and tourist areas developed to make the city and its environs an attractive tourist destination. Thousands of expatriates have taken up residence enjoying the sunny Mexican first world lifestyle and low cost of living.

It’s local history is replete with heroes of the Mexican revolution and those who fought for the rights of the landless and disposed. The city is adorned with various monuments in honor of these heroes. The whims of the nature, the distance and relative isolation in its early history can be considered stumbling blocks that slowed down the development of Chetumal, but the will, hard work and discipline of its founders have borne fruit.

Chetumal continues rapid expansion – its population already rivals that of the entire country of Belize, which in contrast, appears to have atrophied in an endemic state of underdevelopment. Chetumal City has several malls including the requisite Wallmart, Sam’s Club and McDonald’s, a busy downtown commercial shopping area, and a sprawling commercial zone anchored by the new and old markets. Several museums, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs cater to the needs of any visitor or prospective resident seeking big city amenities.

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