Written by El Gallo on 16 Mar, 2001
Chetumal is more or less the center of the enshrinement of Mayan culture, probably because it is the main political site within the Mayan area. The state government is very much into depicting, glorifying, and ultimately claiming Mayan heritage. The Chetumal Civic Center…Read More
Chetumal is more or less the center of the enshrinement of Mayan culture, probably because it is the main political site within the Mayan area. The state government is very much into depicting, glorifying, and ultimately claiming Mayan heritage. The Chetumal Civic Center includes, in addition to a public market and small park, the Museum of Mayan Culture, the Fine Arts Center, and a giant sculpture, all in some way related to Maya.
The Museum is a beauty, and much enjoyed by everybody who visits it, from foreigners interested in the Mayan world to school children getting a glimpse of their heritage. It's a nice, modern museum, and very much in the New Mode of Museums for the Television Generations. Random levels, trees and recorded bird calls, multi-monitors flashing slides, interactive computer displays. Self guided, or with English-speaking guides by arrangement.
It is also almost entirely a museum of reproductions, replicas, and models. There are some smaller pots and clay objects of true antiguity--including some beautiful and very intact complex clay whistles and rattles--but the codex pages, stelae, and carvings are all fiberglass reproductions of the real stones, which have been left where they stood. Very good copies, I might add-you have to touch them to know the difference. And WHAT did they tell you about touching stuff in museums? Don't be a damn Philistine, the ages are watching you. Probably this is a better idea than the way things used to be handled, with Greek marbles and Egyptian stelae stripped from sites and carted off to museums in other cities, or more likely other countries. I found it easiest to think of the museum as a sort of walk-through guidebook that explains while it shows what things look like and what they looked like back when people used them. There are some very cool models of the ancient cities under glass in the floor-I was dying to run a little electric train through them. A few exhibits are intrinsically modern and ellucidate better than the originals-notably the hand cranked, ceiling high computer that allows you to crank the gears representing the 360 day year, the 260 Holy Year, and the Big Wheel of millenia around to arrive at a given date. Find the end of the world!
Another probable improvement on reality is a room shaped like one of those little bungalows up on top of the pyramids, every inch of the interior all painted like new in bright colors, a sort of Sistine Chapel for cartoonists. It's very unlikely you could see anything like this in real life-if the original paint help up for thousands of years, they'd be nuts to let knuckleheads like us get in there and degrade it. But here you can see the full splendor of the old murals. And they are surprizingly modern, in many ways. Mayan art is strange: in some ways it is so stylized as to be recognizable only to archeologists (assuming their interpretations of this Picassesque stuff is valid), but other things, like human faces are wonderfully rendered, showing subtlety of expression. The Mayans would have made fantastic political cartoonists. The mural shown in the Museum is a great little piece of court lore, with various personages standing around shooting the doubtless holy shit. You just immediately start seeing little balloons over their heads, saying like, "¡¿Say WHAT!?" or "Shut up and pay up, bozo," or a VERY obvious "Somebody get that damn kid out of here, will you?" I think this one shot brings home the Mayans as humans more than any other display.
Whether or not the huge stone heads of gods/monsters or the extremely neat, three story statue of the Mayan Tree of Life (The Sacred Ceiba) impress you may be a measure of your own imagination. I loved the Tree, a depiction of the realms of existence from sky down to the underground water of the underworld. And it seems so natural to people who live around water-filled cenotes on a flat plain and view the open sky. In fact the concept of Natural is made much of here, with all the eco-babble of people living with nature. Well, you KNOW how I hate to be politically incorrect, but primitive people generally live with nature-they have no choice. Unless you consider stripping stone from the ground to build giant temples and ball fields an example of living with the natural world on its own terms. An interesting display in the museum shows how the Mayans used cradleboards and straps to deform the skulls of infants into the fashionable shape-also hanging little dingle-balls between their eyes to make them cross-eyed, another fashion (and possibly explaining the current Mexican taxi cab). Is this living in Nature, or perverting nature of the most intimate sort (like the size of your brain cavity) to suit the designs of Man?
Anyway, the Museum is pretty damn cool. $50 pesos for foreigners ($20 for students and teachers with I.D.) Hours are 9 AM to 7PM.
Walking south from the Museum you pass a huge Monument to the Meztiza. It has a towering abstract piece or weirdness attached, but the main impact is a very cool depiction of the mixing of Spanish and Mayan blood. It all started over here in the Mayan world, before Cortes turned his attentions to the more celebrated Aztecs. They even have the NAME of the guy who founded the Meztizo race that comprized most of the population of Latin America. The first Squaw Man. The huge figures show a giant, curly haired Spaniard (or possibly Jeus or Hippie) on your right, his breast opening as he offers his spinal column up (or is it a chain of DNA?). On the left side a very Mayan woman with super nice tits (as usually depicted by these nature-loving souls) is also disemboweling herself. (This is nothing compared to the Mayan art, where all sorts of atrocities take place and you don't know whether you're seeing cosmology, bizarre sex, or massacres.) In the middle, a beautiful child sits, looking pretty Western, actually; international diapers commercial potential,corn in his left hand and a book in his right, heir to these two such diverse strains of blood. It's pretty nice actually. People here in the South seem more relaxed about Indian heritage than in the North, but everywhere in Mexico it's a major neurosis. They want to claim the glories of the past, but nobody wants to be an indio. They want to trace themselves back to European nobility, but the canquistadores are rapist assholes. Not that that's totally a bad thing: the standard Mexican term for "scoring" with a woman is "conquistar". So they get a little confused. But the government is wholeheartedly in support of Indian culture. Not that you'll see many people of indigenous blood in the government. Talk to the Zapatistas about that one. It's a neat style of art, a very Mexican form of modern/ancient/post-socialist. There are other less scrutable pieces around the area-one seems to show an overtime victory by the Chicago Bulls over the Forces of Mordor officiated by satanic astronauts, but I might be a little off on that one.
Leading us (both geographically and thematically, you'll notice) to the Fine Arts Center, a fine, functional building in constant use and dominated by similar artistic mestiza. My favorite shows a Mayan God squatting between huge lines of Mexican men and women with mantillas and machetes, the rows receding like the multi-Gods on Hare Krishna art. Again, the ancient reproduced and interpreted through modern eyes for modern sensibility.
Written by maddaisy on 27 Jun, 2001
We travelled thru Chetumal twice, on the way to and from Belize.
Originally, it was a place we had planned on visiting and we planned to stay 3 days. We left the next afternoon on the way down and as soon as possible the next…Read More
We travelled thru Chetumal twice, on the way to and from Belize.
Originally, it was a place we had planned on visiting and we planned to stay 3 days. We left the next afternoon on the way down and as soon as possible the next morning on the way back.
We had a lot of mileage under us when we arrived. We had seen Cancun, Merida, Chichen Itza, Playa, Cozumel, and Tulum. We had been spoiled, no doubt about it. The Yucatan is so welcoming and pleasant and the shop-keepers and waiters sell their country well.
Visually, Chetumal is not unattractive. The wide streets and large monuments and imposing government buildings give it that "Russian" air. We began to call it the Moscow of the Maya. It seemed sterile compared to the clutter and wild traffic of Merida, and cold after the gentle beach culture of Playa.
There is a kiosk dedicated to tourists. It had one ragged map available. We asked if we could take it and make several copies of it for them if we could have one, but were turned down. The young woman was charming and looked up the directions to the bus depot for us.
In the evening, there are a lot of people on the streets downtown, but the town is empty and closed between 4 and 7 pm and after 930 week nights.
And then there were the pirates.....the taxi drivers who rule this city. We started a revolt at the bus station when we were coming back from Belize. We were quoted a price that was out of line with what we had been paying there the week before. When we declined to pay that price, we were informed that we had too much luggage (one pack each and a handbag). When I said that no one had ever offered to handle our luggage in Chetumal, that we had always been expected to manage our own bags, the driver freaked out. He jumped out of the cab and called a sit down strike of the other cabbies in the queue and pointed and hollered about evil gringas. We were in no rush and there were no other customers, so we sat on our packs and watched this energetic display of machismo until a gentleman from the back of the line came up and offered to carry our bags to his cab. We paid him double what he asked and he actually assisted me back into my pack.
We had been spoiled, especially in Belize, where taxi drivers and bus conductors are wonderfully helpful and kind. They are supermen who carry on small children and large, unwieldy packages and assist old ladies on and off the steep steps and always smile. That will definitely color your vision.
We met other tourists who were in a hurry to leave as well.
It's a shame, because the city is clean and safe and the area around it is so beautiful.
This is the cutest damn thing. Adorable, bizarre, and wistful all at once. It's right across from the State Congress' huge green dome on the Malecon, the Maqueta de Payo Obispo. It's a tiny village, carefully constructed by an architect to be…Read More
This is the cutest damn thing. Adorable, bizarre, and wistful all at once. It's right across from the State Congress' huge green dome on the Malecon, the Maqueta de Payo Obispo. It's a tiny village, carefully constructed by an architect to be a perfect model of what Chetumal was like in the last century, when it was called Payo Obispo after a local hardwood, now probably logged off and extinct.
I forget the name of the architect and the dates and all that honor student crap. If you're interested you'll go check it out and know all that. If not, why should I care? But even if you don't know diddly about it, the model is so cunning. It's in a little house surrounded by windows so you can walk around and see the whole little village on the shores of a painted bay with old boats. The streets are labeled and coated with sand, the houses are the size of shoe boxes, but totally detailed, right down to each seperate pole supporting each little porch rail. Little water tanks are in each yard, a tiny tower in the central park has a clock. It's like a 3D snapshot of an old timey life and I would love to go there. I've even got a place picked out with a view of the water and across from the park. Far away from the damn schoolyard.
This is the main drag, head and shoulders. It runs through the downtown all the way from the pier up to the Mayab Museum. Once you stroll past the Cultural Ghetto, you hit a the Cocos hotel, a great spot to hang in…Read More
This is the main drag, head and shoulders. It runs through the downtown all the way from the pier up to the Mayab Museum. Once you stroll past the Cultural Ghetto, you hit a the Cocos hotel, a great spot to hang in the evening. The place sprawls out onto the sidewalk, where on weekends there is live music from little combos. This is the NEW Maya World culture, a very Euro/Mexican pastime--hanging out in sidewalk cafes and watching people walk by, eating, drinking, and taking the air. Don't worry about what they've got and how much, just grab a seat and chill.
From Cocos to the pier, Heroes is all about shopping. Good shopping at that. Nothing to flip out foreign tourists, but for those of us who live in Mexico, especially places like Isla Mujeres, it's incredible. There are no umbrellas where I live--here they sell for $25 pesos, under $3. A diving mask that would go for $35 US on the Isla goes for $13 here. They have real clothes! For cheap! It's great! Acutally one of the current crises in Chetumal is the failure of stores due to the Free Trade Zone at the Belize border. People dash down there to shop, even places as far north as Cancun have shopping excursions to the border. And yet Belizans come to Mexico to shop, too. Their dollar goes further on exchange here. The perfect border: cheaper on both sides of the fence.
There's a sophistication here you don't see in similar sized Mexican towns. Shops have names like Mel Rose or Reddy Freddy, change houses are called Easy Money, there are places called Samurai and Bonsai and Curacao. This is mostly for the same reason that there is so much money in a remote little place like Chetumal--the capital of the state of Quintana Roo. (No, Alex, not a character in Winny the Poo.) There is the usual stamp of state money. Beautiful women in smashing outfits glide along on obscure errands or long lunch breaks. Barbered, useless-looking men wear fine suits and drive mirrored SUV's. You see BMW motorcycles on the street. Restaurants like Executive Club do big business at lunch. Fancy projects are in evidence, free music provided.
I finally found a saxophone reed here. They have electric guitars made by Fender in China and by Peavey in (dig this) Vietnam. Snorkels with valves. Rolexes. Real perfumes. Heroes is all about prosperity. Out of town people live in hovels, but here things hum right along. They protect the Manatee, glorify the Maya, build a beautiful "Socialist School" with a mural showing the Mexican eagle flanked by a Mayan warrior and Mexican soldier from some vague era. Right on Niños Heroes. About six blocks from museum to pier.
Written by El Gallo on 15 Mar, 2001
This place is so cool, I don't even want to tell you about it. Nobody goes there, and it is waaaaaaaaaay cool.
Anchored right off the main pier is a pontoon boat with a charming superstructure, a little houseboat, actually--and it's a COFFEE HOUSE!!!…Read More
This place is so cool, I don't even want to tell you about it. Nobody goes there, and it is waaaaaaaaaay cool.
Anchored right off the main pier is a pontoon boat with a charming superstructure, a little houseboat, actually--and it's a COFFEE HOUSE!!! Step aboard and onto the fore deck, or inside, where everything is charmingly panelled in ash-blonde or teak-dark tropical hardwoods. There are about 5 tables. You can go topside, too, but no tables or chairs there. And they have real actual coffee, an actual expresso machine. Coffee is $8 pesos, (about 80 cents American) and cappucino is $12. Also have sodas and cold drinks and some pretty good pastry and baked goods. Tiny sweet tarts are a good bet.
But who cares? Point is, you're sitting there sipping your joe on a cute little houseboat. If you don't see what I mean, don't bother going, you're hopeless. Romantic souls, it's worth an hour bus layover and a couple bucks taxi fare from the bus terminal just go hit this place for a cuppa java.
This is all most people see of Chetumal. You arrive here from Mexican points and depart for Belize. Or vice versa. It's the new kind of bus station, the kind that sucks. Instead of being downtown near stuff, it´s a huge cement…Read More
This is all most people see of Chetumal. You arrive here from Mexican points and depart for Belize. Or vice versa. It's the new kind of bus station, the kind that sucks. Instead of being downtown near stuff, it´s a huge cement monstrosity in the outskirts, requiring taxis into town. This probably has a lot to do with the taxi driver's union. Don't laugh--taxi unions are very powerful because they can get violent and really screw things up. That's why there aren't city buses from Mexican airports or remote bus terminals.
Anyway, they are building a jet port here soon. The idea is to develop the southern end of Quintana Roo into a resort capital to rival Cancun in the north end. They are already dumping most state funds (and state controlled federal funds) into pumping up the "Mayan Riviera" (the entire coast except for Cancun) to the detriment of the established city. This is partly a result of greed, but also follows a pattern of Mexican governments--they want to be where the action is. If tourists want to go somewhere else, they spend public money to try to make them go where the government wants them, which is to the capital or county seat. It never works, but creates some weird situations. There is a cruise ship dock at Majahual, a spot of nowhere remote even from Chetumal. Hopes are to create some reason for people to go there after the fact.
As bus stations go, this one is OK, fairly clean, fairl efficient. If heading up the coast towards Cancun, definitely pay extra for First Class service. It's 4 hours to Tulum, 7 to Play Carmen, 8 to Cancun. The road is incredibly boring, generally just walls of scrubby trees going by. First class buses show movies (I got to see "Wedding Singer" and a Spanish dubbed version of "The Sixties", which was a little weird). They also have, and this is major, restrooms on board. And they're quicker and don't stop at every damn tamal stand and don't board more people than they have seats for. Close
At the foot of Niños Heroes is a series of state parks, and the municipal pier. Once a ferry landing from Belize, the pier is not used mostly for fishing, making out, tying up boats, and site of a way cool floating coffee house…Read More
At the foot of Niños Heroes is a series of state parks, and the municipal pier. Once a ferry landing from Belize, the pier is not used mostly for fishing, making out, tying up boats, and site of a way cool floating coffee house (see entry). Despite the large Navy presence here, there are only three dinky little military boats tied up at the dock. God knows what they use them for. Mexicans make a big deal about their largely un-used military. They think of themselves as a warlike people, for some reason, though they haven't really been in any serious wars, certainly not in this century.
From the pier, the malecon (Mexican for a boardwalk or seaside promenade) leads along the Bay. This is green water, not blue--the bay is almost entirely landlocked, except for a canal out to the Carribean. The malecon is broad, paved, and studded with old cannons. A nice walk or jog.
The first sight is a huge pillar commemorating something vague, as usual. In front of it is a weird statue featuting crushed cannons, a woman looking freaked-out, and a guy with a gun and some strange helmet. WW1? Swiped from fire department? Hard to say. As mentioned, the Mexicans think of themselves as very martial for some reason. Their national anthem is full of war cries and crashing cannons shaking the very earth. Why such a harmless country would think of themselves as bloodthirsty and dangerous, while the United States likes to think of itself as peaceful and helpful while dominating the world, is curious. It ties into Mexicans' fierce and insecure patriotism, a characteristic I find charming. In front of the statue is a stage area where civic events, carnivals and fiestas are held. Friday nights they have Viernes Vaqueria, live music in the evening with lots of goodies being sold around the edges.
As is the small stage area in front of the next monument down the way, a very nice bronze sculpture/fountain of a fisherman hauling in a net full of floppers. If yoú're in town on Thursday, fall by here in the evening for Jueves Bohemio, where live music is presented free by the city. Right across, by the way is the Junco de Hong Kong, a pretty good Chinese restaurant--but it closes at 6 PM, fairly incredibly for Mexico, where everybody eats out at like 8.
The huge green building ahead is the State Congress. Across the street from which is the Maqueta de Payo Obispo, a very cool little dodah, see entry. Round the corner and the malecon runs by Punta Estrella, a big kiddie playground with slides and rope climbs and all sorts of stuff you never thought of turning kids loose on. Including two slides that end up in the water! Go for it.
Another treat for Ucum habitants. Right across from the Pantoja is the Hierbaria Pozo Rico, a natual herb apothecary that cures what ails you, no matter how awful or humiliating your complaint. Infertility? Obesity? Impotence? They hear it all the…Read More
Another treat for Ucum habitants. Right across from the Pantoja is the Hierbaria Pozo Rico, a natual herb apothecary that cures what ails you, no matter how awful or humiliating your complaint. Infertility? Obesity? Impotence? They hear it all the time. And have 100% natural cures for it. They have MOUNDS of teas made from herbs you never heard of for ills you never conceived of. Rheumatism acting up? They've got Coyote Grease. Need a little aphrodisiac around the crib? Their damiana is direct from Baja California, and ask about more concentrated ways to get the lead back in the old pencil. Like Sexogil, for instance, which also tones up women, whatever metaphor that might entail. Genuine 100% pure rattlesnake, use as indicated.
Want to slim down, check out Fulminol Plus22. Guaranteed to release the slim seductress within, not to mention parasites. If drinking is a problem, they advertise, don't bother with doctors or prayer-go straight to a bottle of Retrovino K and alcoholism is instantly cured!
Okay, you're not convinced. Cynics. But if you want a source of herbs and seeds and such, they've got it by the bag full. And don't let these people get into your colon. Why do all the natural healers want to start putting stuff in your ass? It makes you wonder. But hey, if it'll make you slim, sober and tumescent, what the hell?
Those who follow my writings here (preferably right into the valley of shadow of Death) are aware that I am an ice cream freak. Hang out long enough in the tropics and you'll be too. I also like sweets. A personal failing.…Read More
Those who follow my writings here (preferably right into the valley of shadow of Death) are aware that I am an ice cream freak. Hang out long enough in the tropics and you'll be too. I also like sweets. A personal failing. Imagine my pleasure (and your own) to discover a magical place where everything they sell is cold and delicious, one stop shopping for yummy snax.
Paleteria y Neveria La Michoacana (Popsicles and Ice Cream "Michoacan Girl" to gringos) is in the block east of the state book store on Heroes, two blocks from the pier. Spot the green and white striped awning across from Bonsai. Hit this place if you know what's what. They've got: