Costa Maya Newsletter > Archived Newsletters > Sept. 2005

Newsletters: of primary interest to property owners on the Costa Maya, - Rio Indio - Placer - Uvero - Punta Herrera - Xcalak and other points along the coast

*********************** Newsletter: Sept. 15, 2005************************


  • Che chen - what is it and how to identify it.
  • Foreign exchange Conversion tool
  • Passport update
  • Dolphin park at Uvero
  • International Beach Cleanup day - Sept 17th
  • Independence day celebration in Mahahual
  • Recycle center moved to a temporary new location
  • Chamber of Commerce news
  • Meet your neighbor - Kerry Vaughn

Hi Neighbors,

This last month Hurricane Katrina hit hard. We have satellite coverage and spent hours looking for Internet sites that had good coverage. It reminded me of channel surfing on TV. I found a Florida paper that consistently has good hurricane coverage on all hurricanes, plus some really good historical coverage. You might want to bookmark the Sun Sentinel Hurricane page : I don't know how many of you had property affected by Katrina, but we do know that Beau and Kitty Speed who lived in Gautier, just twenty miles outside of Biloxi ended up with 5 foot of water in their house. Many of you know Beau and Kitty who have a house here in Placer and may have even rented their house. We wish them luck cleaning up the mess and hope there aren't any others of you who had property damaged by the storm.
Here on the Costa Maya, Katrina brought rain. A couple of pinwheels spun around and dumped a lot of rain - we experienced more wind and rain from Katrina than we did from Emily. The jungle has been transformed. You can still see areas that were burned, but the drought stricken trees have not only recovered, but are starting to grow into the road at an alarming pace. The potholes are growing in the road and I'm ready for a little less rain. We do have another month and a half to dry season, so I'll have to be patient!
You can find this newsletter and archives of past newsletters at this location:

Most of you probably have che chen (Metopium, browneii) on your property (Chechem in Mayan). Hopefully you haven't brushed up against this member of the Anacardiaceae family of plants that include poison ivy, sumac, mangoes and cashews. This family of plants may be one of the most common causes of contact dermatitis in man. If you are sensitive to Mangos, it may be an indication that you are VERY sensitive to Chechen. NOT ALL PERSONS ARE. Some of you may have had your property cleared and all of the Chechen removed. Because we are a hotel, we have removed all but a specimen or two on the perimeter of the property, but if we had a home here, I might have left some of this beautiful tree. When you do have your property cleared, look into leaving a tree or two - they are indigenous to the area and do have some benefits. Following are information and identification tips - probably more than you ever wanted to know, but once I started researching I got carried away.

Che Chen Identification:

Identifying pictures :
Looks very similar to a ficus tree, but has berries on it part of the year.
Berries are brown to red depending on the stage of development.
When cut or injured, chechen exudes a black sap on the trunk, often giving it the name of black poisonwood in Guatemala and Belize
Can reach heights of 50 ft.
Here is a link to Chechen wood used in flooring:

Interesting Facts about Che Chen:

Beautiful hardwood, also known as Caribbean Rosewood. Its lumber name is Poison Wood or Chechen and is 180% as hard as red oak. Once it is dried out it is far less dangerous, except the sawdust may cause irritation to some sensitive individuals. When finished it is often some of the most beautiful wood and you will see it made into furniture and jewelry.
Hardy - grows right up to the beach
Attracts toucans and fruit eating birds to the berries.
Grows tall - makes a great shade tree
Doesn't seem to bother dogs, in fact our dog and other wild dogs seem to like to urinate on the wood or under its leaves and go right to it. When we trimmed ours up high so as not to accidentally brush up against it, our dog was not longer interested in it.

Iguanas eat new leaves and flowers.

Antidote: Chakah or Red Gumbolimbo Bark (Bursera simaruba)
This Mayan antidote is generally 16–66 feet tall and 16–32 inches thick; its trunk and branches are covered by a smooth, coppery, peeling bark. The Chakah leaves are green and oval shaped. The resin may be directly applied to the affected skin. Experimental studies have demonstrated the tree’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. If you have this tree on your property, don't mistake it for Chechen. Its flowers and fruits are remedies for snake bite and diarrhea, while the branches and leaves help treat skin fungus, cold, fever and diarrhea. Its leaves are used for ulcers, measles, infected gums, asthma, bloody stools and pain (head, stomach, toothaches). The Chakah bark is used for cleaning wounds, spider bites, fever, nose bleeding, and muscle pain and an infusion of the wood decoction is said to help lose weight - When I get picture of this I will include it.

Very toxic to some individuals, especially the berries and sap from green wood. If you are highly allergic to poison Ivy or sumac, you will probably equally sensitive as they are in the same family.
If you are around your property and they are burning chechen, it can also cause a reaction in your lungs. This is a very common way to clear your land. What workers do is cut all the che chen down let it dry and few days, pour gasoline on it and then burn it. Unfortunately this is really NOT a very good thing to do as it usually burns things you would like to keep.

The result of getting Chechen on your skin is similar to that of poison Ivy. Your skin almost looks like you have a severe sun burn. When I brushed up against it, it looked like I had been burnt in the kitchen. I had some on my wrist and back of the hand. After a week it started to seep a yellow puss. The seeping itched, but not severely. I was told I wasn't too allergic. Sometimes it can take up to 2 weeks before showing up so you may not know when you actually came in contact with it.

50% of the US population is highly sensitive to the family of Anacardiaceae and 10-15% seem to have a true immunity. (most of my workers say that it doesn't bother them and there seems to be some truth to that. People that grow up with Mangos in the area (a less serious species) seem to sometimes develop and immunity.

Much of the information above comes from, the Botanical Dermitology Database


If you would like to know what the current currency conversion is for Pesos to dollars try Oanda. I really like this conversion website as it also lets you research into what the hidden fees are for ATMs, charge cards and banks. For example the website informed me that my US bank doesn't charge an ATM fee if I use their Mexican affiliate. I also found that if I use my banks credit card that I was paying a hidden surcharge.

I reported here a couple of months ago that the United States had put new deadlines on implementing passport rules. According to USA today, Caribbean tourism officials had complained that the measures would hurt the vital industry since tourists to Mexico were on a later time-frame. Similar rules were proposed for Canada, Mexico and Bermuda, and Caribbean officials also complained that Mexico and Canada would have gain an edge because Americans returning from those countries would not have to show passports until Dec. 31, 2006. The U.S. government had set a tentative Dec. 31 2005 deadline for the Caribbean, but is now reconsidering the date, said State Department spokesman Steve Pike. Americans have needed only birth certificates or driver's licenses for travel to and from the countries.

Although the US government still plans to implement the rules for all countries by January 2008, no new dates have been set for specific nations or regions, Pike said.

A possible extension "will enable us to prepare for the change," said Lorraine Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the Caribbean Hotel Association, which had urged the US Department of Homeland Security not to implement the rules until January 2008. US visitors now can enter 27 Caribbean countries without passports.


Many of you have heard that there was going to be a theme park in the area around Uvero. I'm not sure this qualifies as a theme park, but the Delfin company who built the dolphin park at Xelha and Xcaret is currently building one at Uvero. Whatever your feelings are about caging wild dolphins, human-Flipper interactions are popular at cruise ports in Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean and now the Costa Maya. Nearly 20 programs operate in the Caribbean, and another dozen are being planned, says Susan Sherwin of the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

In a Harris opinion poll in March, 72% of respondents said they would be interested in swimming with dolphins in a "safe and legal environment" at a park or zoo.

But now, due to wild-life conservationists, some travel purveyors are cutting back on dolphin programs. Costa Rica recently banned swims with wild dolphins and prohibits dolphin captivity except for temporary rehabilitation — the first Caribbean country to do so. Though no firms there offer captive-dolphin encounters, at least 25 operators advertise swims with dolphins or whales

I contacted Delfin to find out when I could book a tour with a dolphin at the Costa Maya facility. I was told that it would be ready in January, but they weren't taking bookings yet.


Garbage is truly a problem on our beaches but because of the pristine beauty of the Costa Maya it seems more tragic here. All of you have seen the trash along the shore. Sometimes it is worse than others. If you're anything like former Nature Conservancy employee Linda Maraniss, you are probably appalled and saddened. 20 years ago in South Padre Island, Texas she rounded up nearly 3,000 people, and the group removed 124 tons of debris from the beach that year. This one cleanupgrew into a worldwide effort -- the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC).

Today, the ICC is held around every major body of water in the world. Cumulatively, more than 5.8 million volunteers in over 120 countries have picked up over 100 million pounds of trash!
Marine debris can be an eyesore, no doubt. But debris also presents much more serious concerns that the ICC is helping to solve. Consider these facts:

Human health hazards abound at our beaches and need to be removed. For example, last year's volunteers removed 13,441 syringes!
Some debris items contain dangerous chemicals and become more likely to spill them over time.
Personal computers, for example, contain chromium, mercury, and lead.
Marine debris can injure and kill wildlife. For example, sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and ingest them--blocking their digestive systems. And many creatures bear scars or die from entanglement in fishing line and other debris.

The 20th anniversary of International beach cleanup is Sept. 17th. You can find out more about this at the following link: If you are anywhere around a beach, please grab a garbage back and do your part.


Sept. 16th is Independence day throughout Mexico. On the night of Sept 15th at midnight everyone gathers to do the independence shout with fireworks and a big fiesta. Here in Mahahual the festivities will begin around 10:00 PM and continue on well into the wee hours.


Due to complaints from parents, the recycle center has moved to a new temporary location. Thanks to the efforts of Orlando Iglesia, he has agreed to house the recycle center temporarily at the University of Quintana Roo Extension center. This is located 2 km south of Mahahual. The problem with this location is that it not very accessible to very many people. Now we are back at square one - looking for a permanent home.


Kerry Vaughn is a new neighbor who just purchased property in June. She would love to know more about here neighbors. Learn more about Kerry at this link.

Canaco Costa Maya is looking to be part of the Committee that evaluates the zoning in the Costa Maya. This organization is better known as POET. There are several meetings that will take place in the rear future to change the current zoning. Any changes decided upon won't take place for many months.

The chamber asks the support of anyone opening a bank account to do so at BANAMEX. This will help the installation of the ATM machine in Mahahual town, which has yet to be implemented. In support of English speaking property owners, Banamex recently opened another branch in the mall (that houses Chedraui), with an English speaking manager.

The chamber is working to create the Hotel Association of Mahahual. Investors with a hotel business should be part of this association. If you would like more information please contact Miguel Sosa at

On the first week of October we will have our own small post office in the area of the soccer field, with a mail box. Stamps can be obtained there.

CANACO COSTA MAYA, welcomes Carola Troncoso as the new treasury of the Chamber. We wish her success in her new position

In an effort to bring more professionalism into the tourist industry the chamber has been instrumental in bringing one of the 3 primary instructors of the Tourism Federal Secretariat, teaching our personnel to give better service to customers. The 5 day intensive course is paid 1/3 by the employees and 2/3 by the employers.

Until next time!

Back to top



Updated: 03-May-2008

Home | Activities | Mayan Ruins | Accommodations | Travel Info | Costa Maya | Recipes
FAQs | About us | Site directory | Links | Costa Maya Newsletter | Press Releases

Contact us via email at
Copyright MMB Inc. and MMBKIM