A thin cement pier juts out into the warm waters of Chetumal's bay toward a small island dominated by a mysterious structure. Though fences have been erected to make sure no one is tempted to walk out over the waves, the chain links have been pulled aside and footprints in the sand testify to the frequency with which wanderers and, in all likelihood, teenage lovers make their way out toward what locals call the "Mega Sculpture."
Though Chetumal is by no means a large city, former Governor Joaquin Hendricks Diaz felt that it should have a massive construction on the scale of the Eiffel Tower to celebrate its people. He invested millions of pesos in what was to be the "Monumento de Mestizaje," a celebration of local Mestizo culture. Though workers did manage to build 200-foot-high arch of steel, no one ever finished the job.
Today, the base of the project is covered in graffiti, and the inside of the sculpture, a large space likely intended as a visitor center, is dotted with pools of fetid water. Still, the Mega Sculpture is not without its charms. The huge windows in the concrete base neatly frame that bright Caribbean sky, and the cement makes a nice contrast with the waves.
From the island, visitors -- trespassers really -- can look down the Quintana Roo coast at the bays further north and the shallow spots where fishermen throw and re-throw their nets.
Rusted by spray and bleached by the sun, the sculpture might actually be an appropriate ode to a town that is a little rough around the edges. The area near the dock is full of abandoned homes, and the only people around in the afternoon seem to be three dutiful staff members cleaning up a men's club.
The sculpture looms over the town, reminding them of something. What was it again?