If you have plans to rent a car and go off the beaten track on your next trip, how about exploring southern Quintana Roo? Visit cities of the ancient Maya deep in the jungle, Bacalar, the Lagoon of Seven Colors, beaches and reefs of the Costa Maya and the Museum of Maya Culture in state capital Chetumal, which is soon to be joined by two new museums showcasing the area’s history.
Slated to open in 2016, the Chicle Museum relates the story of the chicozapote, a native tree that yields a milky white sap called chicle that is the original natural ingredient in chewing gum. Exhibits in jungle clearings tell how the ancient Maya used chicle (sicte in Maya) and of its discovery in the 19th century by James Adams. An entrepreneur from the United States, Adams added sugar and flavorings to chicle and invented the first chewing gum. His invention was a hit and demand for chicle rocketed. Bands of chicleros or harvesters ventured into the jungles of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Chiapas in search of chicozapote trees to tap for the precious resin.
The second museum to open later this year is the Museo del Cuna del Mestizaje, which is a reference to Quintana Roo as the place where the first child with European and Maya blood was born. The father of the first mestizo child in Mexico was a Spanish sailor called Gonzalo Guerrero who was shipwrecked on the coast in 1511 and enslaved by the Maya. He eventually won the trust and favor of the Mayan ruler of Chactemal (Chetumal) and married a princess, fathering three children.
Chetumal already has three museums: the Museum of Maya Culture, the City Museum and the Faro Museum (Lighthouse), a fourth, the Piracy Museum is in nearby Bacalar.