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Chetumal is a city on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. It is the capital of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. In 2000 it had a population of 238,520 people.

The city is on the western side of Chetumal Bay near the mouth of the Rio Hondo, at 18.50° North, 88.29° West. Chetumal is an important port for the region, and Mexico's main port of trade with Belize.


In Pre-Columbian times a city called Chetumal was the capital of a Maya state of the same name which controlled roughly the southern quarter of modern Quintana Roo and the north-east portion of Belize. This original Chetumal is now believed to have been on the other side of the Rio 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 subjegated in the late 16th century.

The Maya revolt "the Caste War of Yucatán" drove all the ladinos from this region in the 1840s for generations; 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 legally changed to Chetumal in 1936.

Two hurricanes in the 1940s leveled the entire town; Chetumal was devestated 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 emigration here from other parts of Mexico.

The city has a Museo de la Cultura Maya, a museum of Maya artifacts, as well as a zoological museum.