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, 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 or sicte and of its discovery in the 19th century by James Adams who added sugar and flavorings and invented the first chewing gum. Demand for chicle rocketed and 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. Gonzalo Guerrero, a Spanish sailor who was shipwrecked on the coast in 1511 went on to win the favor of the Maya and marry a princess, fathering the first mestizo children in Mexico.
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 Bacalar.