CHETUMAL, QUINTANA ROO
Romulo Rozo sculptures Chetumal
Socialist School Chetumal 1938
Bellas Artes Chetumal
Romulo Rozo Chetumal work on school
Romulo Rozo signature Chetumal
Above is the trademark signature of the
famous sculptor Rómulo Rozo who executed
all of the stone work at Chetumal in the 1930’s
era of infrastructure building.

He also designed the official seal at left, wrote
numerous songs and did stone monuments in
Mérida, Veracruz and México City. Right is
Rozo’s state seal relief carved in stone;
bust of Romulo Rozo Chetumal
Hospital Morelos Chetumal
Hurricane Janet Level of water in Chetumal 1955
populated capital in all of México with only 150,000. It recently came into existence after many years of political strife
and protracted war.

Before the fifty plus year Caste War a British Admiralty chart of 1840 described the jungle area and Caribbean coast
of the southeastern Yucatán peninsula as; “Parts said to be very thinly populated”. This Mayan holdout against
Spanish conquistador takeover had their territorial capital at Santa Cruz de Bravo or Chan Santa Cruz, now known as
Felipe Carrillo Puerto.  

No sooner did the Caste War conclude and the Mexican Revolutionary War commenced.
It took an invasion of Méxican federal troops to cool the Caste War and then the capitol city of Chetumal was created
at the extreme south of the territory adjacent to British Honduras on an undefined border. The population of Chetumal
in 1910 was 1,112.

The new governor of neighboring Yucatán, a former Méxican military man, Salvador Alvarado laid the ground work for
a socialist-populist movement that brought in a very popular social reformer named Felipe Carrillo Puerto.

After México’s nearly three hundred years of slavery, the Mexican-American War, the Yucatán fight for sovereignty,
the protracted Caste War that begun in 1847 and next the turbulent revolutionary war that lasted about ten years
ultimately brought about social reform.

Felipe Carrillo Puerto became governor of Yucatán with a platform of workers rights, land reform and equality for the
indigenous Mayan people. Democratically elected in 1922 Felipe became governor and was assonated at the Mérida
cemetery by a firing squad in January 1924.

Political upheaval and instability made for a socialist turn by 1934 when México elected Lázaro Cárdenas their
president and he took steps to reestablish the Territory of Quintana Roo. This is when Chetumal received its first solid
infrastructure with his endorsements. The population of Chetumal was then 2,790 and the only way to get there was by
open boat down the coast from Cozumel or on horseback through the jungle which took a week from the end of the
Mérida railroad line at Peto.
Big things began to happen in little Chetumal when Méxican president Lázaro Cárdenas together with the new
socialist governor of Quintana Roo, Rafael E. Melgar got public works projects completed. Schools, a hospital and
state capitol building materialized.
A close up look at Rómulo Rozo’s creative stone relief work in the amphitheater.
The impeccably kept Chetumal Socialist School stresses the arts and has active community involvement.
By night this jewel of Chetumal is proudly illuminated and as you can see the monumental building is richly adorned
with hundreds of Rómulo Rozo’s stone sculptures.
Above is the trademark signature of the famous sculptor Rómulo Rozo who executed all of the stone work at
Chetumal in the 1930’s era of infrastructure building. He also designed the official seal at left, wrote numerous songs
and did stone monuments in Mérida, Veracruz and México City. Right is Rozo’s state seal relief carved in stone;
moved to Mérida in the 1940’s and took up the Yucatecan attire of a sombrero, white Nauru collared Guayabera shirt
heavy leather soles that made a distinctive che-che-che sound and are still warn by the dancers of the Mérida Mayan
with gold buttons, long white trousers and the traditional Mayan style x-canche hule sandals that had thick stacked
folkloric ballet to this day.  
heavy leather soles that made a distinctive che-che-che sound and are still warn by the dancers of the Mérida Mayan
folkloric ballet to this day.  
Jorge Rodrigo Ché pictured in the above photo is an enthusiastic historian of the Rómulo Rozo story. He has also
been the one to paint and restore all of the relief sculptures in the school complex, a job he just completed. There is
an individual sculpture for each state of México, all the countries of the Americas and various symbolic figures that
are so numerous it is nearly impossible to count them all.
Part of the huge Socialist School complex is the music school and as you can see the state seal designed by Rómulo
Rozo’s is still used to this day on this new entry sign.
This has to be the cleanest town in this part of the world and check out the meticulously painted buildings.
Free enterprise is very much alive and well here with street venders able to set up their little provisional shops along
the city streets.
The Mayan lady above is selling tropical fruit from her own garden with nearly no infrastructure expenditures.
Public pride is evident throughout the city of Chetumal and is apparent in this inner courtyard of the Socialist School.
The inner courtyard of Hospital Morelos is adorned with the expressive stone carving of Rómulo Rozo that is
strikingly similar to his work on the Monumento a la Patria on Paseo de Montejo in Mérida.
A monument to Governor Rafael E. Melgar, renounced for his lasting social works, that stands in the approach to the
Hospital Morelos
This wall pack is just a few feet away on this hilltop that was above the flood waters of category 5 Hurricane Janet that
flattened the city of Chetumal with 175 mile per hour winds and killed over 600 people in 1955. Chetumal population
was then 12,855.
boulevard street is lined with historical statuary figures beginning here with Jacinto Pat the famous Mayan resistance
fighter from the Caste War.
appointed archetypical display.
If you miss this museum you have missed a key component of Chetumal.
front of the municipal market is this larger than life sculpture  that looks like it has been transplanted from the
Barcelona Gaudy collection.
This intriguing street art definitely compliments this well kept place of civic pride.   
This sculpture of Gonzalo Guerrero is a part of the monument in Chetumal dedicated to the Cradle of the Mestizo.
A close-up look into this hauntingly perceptive work of art makes you feel the captivating existence of a hypnotic
power in it that seems to take on a life of its own.

Continuing on down the boulevard street from the Mayan Culture Center toward the bay front on Avenida Héroes you
will pass the Socialist School and at each street corner another bronze bust of one of México’s heroes. This is a very
lovely clean and well maintained city with an abundance of fresh unpolluted air surrounded by tropical jungle and the
Caribbean Sea at its doorstep.
is huge but very shallow, so therefore no sea going freighter traffic calls here.bay is huge but very shallow, so
therefore no sea going freighter traffic calls here.
Looking back at Chetumal from the end of the municipal pier the bay front park appears enshrouded in jungle. The
immense bay is too shallow to allow sea going freighter traffic.
monuments like the one above. Monumento a la Bandera, the first monument built in Chetumal that contains the
original clock from Santa Cruz de Bravo, the Mayan capitol before Chetumal was founded.  
This is a very bicycle friendly city. The waterfront boulevard street beginning here is adorned with even more
monuments while it makes a scenic trip north where fresh Caribbean breezes are drifting in across the expansive
Chetumal Bay.
North of Chetumal along the bay is the little waterfront settlement of Calderitas where numerous seafood restaurants
compete for your business.
A nice bicycle ride north of Calderitas will take you to the Mayan ruins of Oxtankah nestled in dense jungle.  They
have been recently restored and contain a significant amount of Spanish conquistador early dwellings.
West of Chetumal the Mayan ruins are too numerous to mention, but the closest one, Kohunlich is touted to have
some of the best preserved frescos.
South of Chetumal is the little English speaking country of Belize with only about half a million people nation-wide. It is
a wonderful place to visit but two weeks is barely enough time. Fall is nearly impossible there because of heavy rains
and bad muddy roads.
central México.
South is only to Belize and beyond Belize in Central America transportation is open to local options.
Art work is everywhere in Chetumal and even the bus terminal had to get into the act with the above mural that
contains historical depictions.                                               
John M. Grimsrud ©2010

Related story:
CHETUMAL, IN SEARCH OF GONZALO GUERRERO, FATHER OF THE FIRST MESTIZO