Museo de la Cultura Maya
One of the best museums in the region, Museo de la Cultura Maya (Av. de los Héroes at Calle Cristóbal Colón, tel. 983/832-6838, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.–Sun., US$5) extends over three levels—the upper represents the world of gods, the middle the world of humans, and the lower Xibalba, the underworld.
Each floor has impressive well-designed exhibits describing Maya spiritual beliefs, agricultural practices, astronomy and counting, and more, all in English and Spanish. In fact, the only thing lacking is original artifacts. (The copies, however, are quite good.)
The exhibition area past the ticket booth usually has good temporary art shows, plus a cinema that hosts free screenings of independent films.
Monumento al Mestizo
Across from the Museo de la Cultura Maya is the Monumento al Mestizo (Av. de los Héroes s/n), a striking sculpture symbolizing the creation of a new race—the mestizo—through the union of the Spanish shipwrecked sailor Gonzalo Guerrero and Zazil Há, a Maya woman. Hernán Cortés offered to take Guerrero back to Spain, but Guerrero chose to stay in the Americas, wedding Zazil Há in a Maya marriage ritual. Note that the Maya symbol for the number zero as well as the cycle of life, the snail shell, provides the framework for the entire work of art.
Museo de la Ciudad
The city museum (Calle Héroes de Chapultepec btwn Avs. Juárez and de los Héroes, tel. 983/832-1350, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Sun., US$1) is small and well organized, and describes the political, economic, and cultural history of Chetumal, spanning the period from its founding in 1898 to the present day. Signage is in Spanish only.
Running six kilometers (3.6 miles) on the Boulevard Bahía, this breezy promenade makes for a fine bayfront stroll. Along it you’ll find cafés, monuments, a lighthouse, government buildings, and, hopefully, a cooling breeze. Of particular note are two impressive murals found within the Palacio Legislativo (end of Av. Reforma, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Fri.), a shell-shaped building that houses the State Congress. Created by local artist Elio Carmichael, one mural outlines the state’s history—from the creation of man to the devastating effects of Hurricane Janet in 1955—while the other depicts the law of the cosmos. Both are located in the reception area and are free for public viewing.
Maqueta Payo Obispo
The Maqueta Payo Obispo (Calle 22 de Enero near Av. Reforma, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Tues.–Sun., free) is a scale model of Chetumal as it looked in the 1930s, with brightly colored clapboard houses, grassy lots, and plenty of palm trees. The idea for creating it came from longtime resident Luis Reinhardt McLiberty, who thought of it in 1986 during the 50th anniversary of the reincorporation of Quintana Roo into Mexico. He completed a model based on his memory and displayed it in his home.
It gained such fame, however, that city officials hired historians and professional craftsmen to create the model that is now on display. Look for it in a glass-enclosed building across the street from the Palacio Legislativo; strangely, viewing is outdoors from platforms that surround the structure. Because of the glare on sunny days, you’ll have to press your face up against the glass to see the tiny town. A small history museum of the city also is on-site; signage in Spanish only.
For a breezy overview of Chetumal’s attractions, consider taking Bule Buzz (cell. tel. 983/120-5223, US$7.50 adult, US$5 child), a guided trolley tour of the city. Sites visited include the murals in the Palacio Legislativo, the sculptures along Boulevard Bahía, the Maqueta Payo Obispo, and the Museo de la Cultura Maya. The trolley leaves from the Monumento al Mestizo at noon and 3 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday; admission to the Museo de la Cultura Maya also is included.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition