March 1, 2002
The Tinum Story
How it all began...
Back in the late '60's, an American artist named Bob Smith was traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico when he met a very friendly local man at the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza. He invited Bob to his home in a tiny village nearby, where Bob was astonished by what he saw and ultimately ended up living for years to come.
Occasionally, Bob would go on short trips to the USA and was always excited to tell all about the very intruiguing lifestyle and content nature of the people who lived in Tinum. On one occasion while in Miami, Bob met Bettina, who was particularily interested in his stories and wished to see it all for herself. Well, after visiting Tinum once, Bettina shut down her floral business, sold her house, and at the age of 45, moved there.
Bob and Bettina were continually fascinated with the many distinctions of the Mayan culture and soon developed a "program" to help anthropology and archeology students, and anyone else who had interest to learn more about the people of Tinum, by making arrangements for them to stay with Mayan families and experience first hand their admirably inique and time proven approach to living life. They were also concerned with the well-being of their neighbors in the village, and with the existence of the "program" were able to provide the locals with a valuable source of income.
Before long, visitors began to arrive. Backpackers on foot, families by car, students by the busload. Stories written in newspapers, articles in travel magazines, word of mouth, and an entry in "The Frommer's Guide to Mexico" have lured curious visitors to Tinum ever since.
Bob long ago moved on to Chiapas to try and help save the rain forests in the remote areas of southern Mexico. And, after living in the jungle for ten years, Bettina met and married a gentleman from California, and have been living ever since throughout the US.
Bettina's stepson Robert and his Dutch friend Heidi were most willing to accept Bettina's invitation to make use of her home in Tinum, where they then lived for several years, and continued the stimulate cultural interactions between those desiring to touch the past, with those who call it the present, for the enrichment of the future. Heidi eventually returned to Holland to pursue the dream of a nursing degree, but Rob stayed, and has since been blessed with many special friendships and experiences as unique as any could be.
Dawn was a exchange student in Merida, and came to Tinum with other students on a trip arranged by her professors to take advantage of the "program". A couple of years later, Rob and Dawn were married, and still try to spend at least several months of each year in Tinum, where they met.
Tinum is located 21 km northwest of Valladolid on the road to Izamal via Dzitas. Valladolid is situated exactly halfway between Merida and Cancun on route 180. Buses run all day every day from all locations to Valladolid, of which some continue on to Tinum. Numerous taxis and coches in Valladolid make the trip regularly as well.
Upon your arrival in Tinum, simply ask anyone to see if retired American professors Lisa y Schulze are in town. If they are around, they as well can host you in the village, and will help you get prepared for the unforgettable experience of living with a Mayan family. Visitors will be introduced to and warmly received by families that are well aware of the needs of their foreign guests, and will be free to involve themselves as they wish in the daily lives of the people of Tinum. Accomodations are rustic at best, yet entirely suitable. Speaking some Spanish (or Maya) is helpful, but not necessary.
The cost for the unusual opportunity to stay in Tinum is mas o menos US$20 per person, per day and includes three regional meals, spending the night, and lots of extraordinary sights and situations. The "program" is non-profit, please pay your host family directly.
A few of the activities of recent visitors include learning the age-old art of hammock making; partaking in very colorful annual celebrations and fiestas; Mayan language classes; discovering some of the secrets for cooking delicious Mayan dishes; venturing to the "milpa" or cornfield to harvest; preparing underground ovens for baking; tropical bird watching; medicinal plant identification; exploring caves; hand-making tortillas by the millions; climbing carefully down the steep walls of a "cenote" for a swim; helping with the butchering of a pig; tasting honey straight from the hive; seeing demonstrations of rope-making and the many techniques of using a machete; traditional dance lessons; gathering and carrying home wood on your back for cooking fires; and receiving tips on how to sleep a hammock.
Now, since everyone in the Yucatan sleeps in hammocks, you will either need to bring with or purchase a top quality handmade hammock in Tinum.