Quintana Roo

Quintana Roo

[keen-tah-nah raw-aw]
Quintana Roo, state (1990 pop. 493,277), 19,630 sq mi (50,842 sq km), SE Mexico, on the Caribbean. Chetumal is the capital. Occupying most of the eastern part of the Yucatán peninsula, the state was, until recently, wild, sparsely settled, and populated almost entirely by the Maya. In recent years large areas have been cleared for farming and pasture, and the coast has been developed for resorts. It has a hot climate and high rainfall. The economy is dominated by tourism. The resorts of Cancún, Cozumel, and the "Mayan Riviera" are leading international vacation spots. Along the Caribbean coast is the famous Mayan archaeological zone of Tulúm as well as the lare Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. The flat plain with its almost impenetrable ebony and cedar forests and the resistance of the Maya forced Francisco de Montejo to abandon his attempt (1527-28) to conquer Yucatán from the east. Scandalous episodes involving the wholesale purchase of Mayas for what amounted to slave labor in the chicle plantations tarnished the history of the territory in the late 19th and early 20th cent.

Chetumal (Chactemàal which means: "Place of the red wood" Modern Maya) (coordinates: ) is a city on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. It is the capital of the state of Quintana Roo and the municipal seat of the Municipality of Othón P. Blanco. In 2005 it had a population of 136,825 people.

The city is situated on the western side of Chetumal Bay, near the mouth of the Río Hondo. Chetumal is an important port for the region and operates as Mexico's main trading gateway with the neighboring country of Belize. Goods are transported via a road connecting Chetumal with Belize City to the south, and also via coastal merchant ships. Because of its location on the Caribbean coastline, it is vulnerable to tropical cyclones; Hurricane Janet and Hurricane Dean, both Category 5 storms, made landfall near Chetumal in 1955 and 2007 respectively.


In Pre-Columbian times, a city called Chactemal (sometimes rendered as "Chetumal" in early European sources) was the capital of a Maya state of the same name that roughly controlled the southern quarter of modern Quintana Roo and the northeast portion of Belize. This original Chetumal is now believed to have been on the other side of the Río Hondo, in modern Belize, not at the site of modern Chetumal.

During the Spanish conquest of Yucatán, the Maya state of Chetumal fought off several Spanish expeditions before finally being subjugated in the late 16th century.

The 1840s revolt of the indigenous Maya peoples against Mexican rule, known as the Caste War of Yucatán, drove all the Hispanic people from this region; many settled in British Honduras (modern Belize).

The current site of Chetumal was established as a Mexican port town in 1898, originally under the name Payo Obispo. The name was officially changed to Chetumal in 1936.

Two hurricanes in the 1940s leveled the entire town; Chetumal was devastated a third time in 1955 by Hurricane Janet. After this, the town was rebuilt with more solid construction, with concrete blocks replacing wood as the usual material.

The population of Chetumal was small (about 5,000 in 1950) until the construction of highways linking it to the rest of Mexico in the 1960s and 1970s; the city then boomed with substantial migration from other parts of Mexico.

Contemporary Chetumal

Chetumal is a small growing city with an international airport. The city has a Museum of Maya Culture as well as a zoo.

Chetumal's economy has been influenced by its proximity to the border with Belize. A goods and services tax-free zone (Corozal Free Zone) established on the Belizean side attracts many visitors to Chetumal and also provides a ready market for Chetumal's retailers and traders. Chetumal itself was also once a free zone and a notable destination for people from other parts of Mexico seeking to purchase high-value and bulk goods, free of government duty charges (a policy that was deliberately implemented to attract this business). The city retains a significant retail trade for the region, which supports many local businesses.

Several modern malls have been built, such as the Plaza de Américas mall, which houses a modern movie theater (which belongs to the Mexican chain Cinepolis), various department store chains, fast-food outlets, and supermarkets.

In addition to its retail economy, Chetumal is also the capital of the state of Quintana Roo. Since it is the location of all of the state's central offices, there is a large population of government employees whose consumption of local goods and services injects additional revenue into the Chetumal economy.

The city has a music school which offers lessons of various instruments as well as music theory and history. The school is the main music school of the state and is the home of the Junior symphonic orchestra of the state Quintana Roo ("Orquesta sinfonica juvenil del estado de Quintana Roo") which is directed by Silvia Alcantara Chavero.

The city houses two theaters. The "Teatro minerva", which is an open air theater and belongs to the state's music school , and the "Teatro Constitullentes", which is a private-owned theater.

There is a Country club, which features tennis, football and basketball courts, a gym, a swimming pool, a steam-bath and a lounge for parties.

In the early 1990s, the University of Quintana Roo was established at Chetumal, providing training and advanced tertiary degrees over a range of subjects.


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