Sapodilla tree (Manilkara Zapota) “The gum tree”

Originally called chicozapote or xicotzapotl is a tree native to southeastern Mexico, also located in Central America and parts of the Caribbean, it is a ‘tree that stays green all year round and reaches an approximate height of 40m, the hardwood that comes from the trunk is Reddish color and much appreciated in the construction area due to its durability from before the arrival of the Spanish conquest, used especially for the elaboration of lintels in structures of the Mayan cities, also the fruit produced by the Chicozapote is edible and highly appreciated by local people and but it is mainly a source of food for wild animals that live in the jungle surrounded by this type of vegetation, as is the case with spider monkeys. The taste of the fruit some people describe it as the combination of a pear with brown sugar. (British encyclopedia).

Sapodilla tree is highly prized in tropical areas, but in the Mayan world it was one of the main resources that nature used. Wood and milky resin are currently still used for construction and chewing gum production. The people of the communities that are responsible for the collection of chewing gum are known as “chicleros” and it is during the rainy season between the months of July and February that they are responsible for this activity.

Chewing gum production process.

In order to protect the species of the Sapodilla tree, the chicleros use a method of crop rotation, and it is carried out in different steps, the first step is the selection of trees that have the appropriate dimensions to harvest approximately 1.5 liters of resin and that have not been harvested in a span of at least 3 years so as not to be damaged.

The second step is to make deep cuts in the zigzag-shaped bark so that they are intercepted and the resin can drain down to a canvas bag that is tied at the base of the trunk.
 
The third step of the process is collecting all the resin from the bags to a large container and heating until boiling, in such a way all the moisture evaporates until it reaches a moldable consistency to finally make gum blocks with an approximate weight of twenty kilograms each one and transport them that way to the collection center.

The chewing gum industry is an activity that has been alive in the Yucatan Peninsula for many years, currently the company is exported to different countries in the world such as Japan, the United States, Canada, and some European countries such as organic chewing gum.

The origin of Chacchoben community

According to local people, Chacchoben began as a small camp to collect resin from the Chicozapote tree for the production of chewing gum that was sent through the lagoon of Chan Santa Cruz (currently known as the blue lagoon in Pedro A Santos) with an approximate length of 26 miles to Chactemal (currently Chetumal, the state capital of Quintana Roo); The gummies sent in chewing gum (a type of small boat) the gum blocks to the collection center and received food to keep during the whole season they lived in the camp, but they also obtained food from the jungle by hunting wild animals such as deer, fruits , seeds and honey.

According to descendants of the town’s founders in the early 1940s, a group of 13 or 14 chewing gum came from a town called Kopoma of Yucatan, in the camp they were accompanied only by a woman who was in charge of cooking for everyone, living in the camp and returning to their homes at the end of the harvest was a long journey, so some of them decided to settle and stay in Chacchoben, they began to build their houses and grow their own food, with the passage of more people arrived and families grew, it was in the 1960s when they began to celebrate a tradition from their previous home in Yucatán to the patron saint San Isidro labrador and since then began the new tradition that continues to celebrate every second week of the month of May since 1963.

In October 1974, President Luis Echeverría Álvarez decreed Quintana Roo as a free and sovereign State, and in the early 1980s Narcizo Mendoza Elementary School was established in the community, this event can be considered as the beginning of an organized community .

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/topic/chicle#ref67475

https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/species/sapodilla

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