Chetumal Bay

Chetumal Bay

Chetumal Bay is a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea in the south of the Yucatan peninsula, between Mexico and Belize.

It is located between the coordinates 18 ° 33 ‘N and 88 ° 08’ W and politically it is divided between Mexico and Belize, whose border runs through the middle of its waters.

Chetumal Bay has a very shallow depth so it does not have high draft ports and in it there is a single island, Tamalcab. It is separated from the Caribbean Sea by a large continental projection of the peninsula in Mexico and by Ambergris Caye in Belize.

The Hondo River flows into the Bay of Chetumal, which marks the border between Mexico and Belize and is one of the few surface currents on the Yucatan Peninsula. At the point of the river’s mouth in the bay is the city of Chetumal, which gives its name to the bay and is the most important city in the region and capital of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

Chetumal Bay is considered a sanctuary for the manatee, an endangered aquatic mammal that is considered a symbol of this region. It is communicated with the Caribbean Sea in Mexican territory through the Zaragoza channel in the town of Xcalak.

In Pre-Columbian times, a city called Chactemal (sometimes rendered as “Chetumal” in early European sources), probably today’s Santa Rita in Belize, 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 Corozal Town, British Honduras (modern Belize).

The current site of Chetumal was established as a Mexican port town in 1898, originally under the name Payo Obispo. At the invitation of founder Othon P. Blanco, the early town was populated by settlers from Belize (including Caste War refugees and Englishmen).

The name of the town 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.

The government of Porfirio Díaz decided to end that situation, resolving to fight the rebel maya and to achieve this it definitively established the boundaries with British Honduras in the Rio Hondo, according to a treaty signed in 1893, also separated the new one from the state of Yucatan Federal Territory of Quintana Roo and sent the army to fight the Maya.

The first step in combating them was to prevent the trafficking of arms from Belize and to assert Mexican sovereignty at that end of the territory, so it was decided to build a fort and customs section at the point where the Hondo River led to the Bahía de Chetumal and who was known as [Payo Obispo],’ an officer of the navy, [White P. Mark], suggested that as it was an unexplored place and without any certainty of what the terrain would be like, it would be better to send to the place a [pontoon] than anchored at the point of the bay or the Hondo River, could serve as a barracks and customs section while a permanent establishment was being achieved, and the pontoon would allow for rapid mobility and increased surveillance. Blanco’s suggestion was accepted and he was also appointed command of such pontoon and chief of the operation; the pontoon was built in [New Orleans] and Blanco gave it the name [Chetumal Ponton], as a souvenir to the Mayan name of the region. He left New Orleans in late [1897] and after making stops in Progress (Yucatan)’ ProgresoYucatan and Cozumel, arrived at the mouth of the Hondo River on 22 January 1898.

Othón P. Blanco quickly organized the garrison and ordered the clearing of the coast, covered with mangrove, to establish a permanent population on the mainland, and also came into contact with Mexicans residing in Corozal Town (Belize)’ Corozal and survivors of the [Bacalar] massacre and communicated their intentions to establish a new population, inviting them to return to Mexico.

Finally, Othón P. Blanco officially founded the new town, on 5 May 1898, with neighbors from Corozal and other parts of the peninsula and gave it the name Payo Obispo’, as the region was already known. On the origin of this name it is mentioned that it comes from Fray Payo Enríquez de Rivera, who was Archbishop of Mexico and Viceroy of New Spain, but that when he was Bishop of Guatemala he came to pay a visit to Bacalar, landing at the point that received his name.

Our Jaguar Village at seaside is only 10 miles away from Chetumal International Airport and 15 minutes from Chetumal Center.

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