Wednesday, August 9, 2017

SearchResearch Challenge (8/9/17): Questions about the Yucatán? (#1000)


Yes, this is SearchResearch post #1000.  Remarkably enough, we've been talking about search, sensemaking, and how to be better at this for just over 7 years, since January 31, 2010.  In that first post, I wrote about a method for monitoring a web page on a topic.  (Of course, the method I describe there no longer works as written... which is why this blog has been ongoing for so long!)  

In my next post, I'll write a bit about the process of writing SRS, and where it's going.  There may be a thousand posts under our collective belts, but there's still so much more to do!  


Onward... to this week's Challenge... 

Last week I was in Cancun, Mexico, attending a friend's wedding, enjoying the beaches, and (naturally) slipping in a quick dive trip on the side.  

This is a picture from our dive at one of the Dos Ojos cenotes

As you can see, a cenote is a sinkhole exposing groundwater below. Cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings, but we were there to explore the caves.  There were four of us, following the yellow trail marker line into the heart of the cenote, swimming through impossibly clear water.  At times, it seemed we were flying through a fantastic vast cavern, rather than swimming along well underground.  

Naturally, all of this made me very curious about cenotes, the Yucatán, and the whole place in general.  Here are a few of the questions I had (and answered!) this week.  

Can you answer them as well? 

1.  Cenotes seem to appear all over the Yucatán peninsula.  If you look at a map of the area, it seems they all line up just inland from the Riviera Maya coastline.  But I know there are cenotes in the north of the peninsula as well. Is there a larger pattern of cenotes at work here?  If so, what caused that particular pattern of cenotes to form? 
2.  As you know, Cancun is on the eastern side of the Yucatán, in the state of Quintana Roo.  That name--Quintana Roo--has always struck me as slightly odd. Where's this name from, and why does it sound so non-Spanish?  (Extra credit:  How do you pronounce "Quintana Roo"?  While there, I learned I've been saying it wrong all these years!)  
3.  Speaking of Quintana Roo, when did it become a full-fledged state of the United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos)?  
4.  While walking around, I found a tree (apparently native) that is said to have been the basis for chewing gum.  Really?  What kind of tree is this? What's the story here?   

As you search, take note of HOW you found the answers, and let us know in the comment thread!  

¡Sigue buscando! 

(Search on!)  


  1. Congratulations, Dr. Russell for the 1,000 post!!! And thanks for doing the SRS Challenges

    2. As you know, Cancun is on the eastern side of the Yucatán, in the state of Quintana Roo. That name--Quintana Roo--has always struck me as slightly odd. Where's this name from, and why does it sound so non-Spanish? (Extra credit: How do you pronounce "Quintana Roo"? While there, I learned I've been saying it wrong all these years!)

    I pronounce it: Quintana as it sounds and Ro as in Robert.

    [Quintana Roo] and [quintana roo historia]

    History of Quintana Roo. Historia de Quintana Roo (Spanish)" nombre oficial lo tomó de Andrés Quintana Roo…”

    Andrés Eligio Quintana Roo. His parents are from Islas Canarias descendants. His wife Leona Vicario very important in Mexico’s Independence.

    Pronounced on Google translate both in Spanish (as I do) and in English

    Answer: From Wikipedia: El nombre del estado proviene de Andrés Quintana Roo (1787–1851), político, escritor, poeta y periodista. Fue Diputado y firmante del Acta de Independencia de México. Fue esposo de Leona Vicario. Murió en México, D. F…. Politician, writer, poet and journalist. He signed Mexico Independence.

    3. Speaking of Quintana Roo, when did it become a full-fledged state of the United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos)?

    Searching Q2: Found: La fecha oficial de su designación como estado independiente y soberano de la federación mexicana es el 8 de octubre de 1974…. Granted statehood within the United Mexican States on October 8, 1974

    Quintana Roo Wikipedia article in English...Quintana Roo was made a territory of Mexico by decree of President Porfirio Díaz on November 24, 1902….

    4. While walking around, I found a tree (apparently native) that is said to have been the basis for chewing gum. Really? What kind of tree is this? What's the story here?

    I searched in Spanish, knowing about the tree:

    [arbol chicle]

    Manilkara zapota
    Hay sitios arqueológicos en donde los dinteles de las puertas se uso madera de chicozapote y se ha mantenido hasta la fecha. Chicozapote and mamey are delicious fruits...El nombre del chicle proviene del náhuatl tzictli. (Name of the gum comes from Nahuatl Tzictli. By the way, today is celebrated Pueblos Indígenas (original people)

    En 1860 el General Antonio López de Santana, durante su exilio en Nueva York, conoció a Thomas Adams... In 1871 first gum in the United States: “Adams New York Gum No.1.”

    [tzictli] and [tzictli nahuatl] Results show different kinds of gum

    words that come from Nahuatl

    I just learned about a new Maya tree that is so beautiful and know about Ceiba.

    [arbol maya]

    Maya sacred tres

    Cantemó, del maya can: amarillo, te: árbol y moc: nudo Yellow knot. I just learned about this tree. It is so beautiful.

    [arbol del chicle conafor] on Videos.

    Chicle different from chewing gum 1,000 hits to obtain Chicle. (Video in Spanish) It is about a way to live with chicle and shows how the original is made.

    1. 1.Is there a larger pattern of cenotes at work here? If so, what caused that particular pattern of cenotes to form?

      I started with [cenotes] as I remembered one SRS in which Dr. Russell shared that trick

      1MM #6: Finding Maps AND, noticed that now we need to remove site: from the query [ SF bay area drinking fountains] to find same results video shows.

      [cenotes yucatan pattern]

      It has been suggested that the arcuate pattern of the Yucatan cenotes represents fracturing around the perimeter of the Chicxulub impact crater... [Define arcuate ]

      [how many cenotes are there in mexico]

      Wikipedia English mentions 6,000. In Spanish more than 2,400

      [cuantos cenotes hay en yucatán]

      6000 and only 2400 studied and registered.

      What is a Cenote and how were the formed? Pronunciation sounds in English sounds very similar to Spanish.

      7,000 or 8,000 just on Yucatan and also mentions the different types of Cenotes.

      Loscenotesde la Península de Yucatán (Site El término cenote,del maya ts’ono’ot o d’zonot, “caverna con depósito de agua”...El origen de los cenotes se debe al proceso geomorfológico denominado karst (The origin of the cenotes is due to the geomorphological process denominated Karst)... el denominado anillo de cenotes, cual coincide con el diámetro externo del cráter Chicxulub (The so-called ring of cenotes,coincides with the external diameter of the crater Chicxulub)...Por sus características hidrobiogeoquímicas,
      los cenotes se clasifican como jóvenes y viejos. (Due to its hydrobiochemochemical characteristics,the cenotes are classified as young and old.)

      Wikipedia list of some cenotes

      ¿Sólo hay cenotes en la Península de Yucatán? / Only Yucatan Peninsula has Cenotes? Florida, Cuba and Australia have karst formations ( word by Jovan Cvijić on 1893)


      Wikipedia: Karst topography is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves

  2. I'll start with the middle three questions, #3 first:

    3) Searching on ["quintana Roo" history] found this article (, which mentioned:

    a) When Mexico began its fight for independence from Spain in 1810, it found an ardent supporter in the young lawyer Andrés Quintana Roo, a native of Mérida. Quintana Roo was instrumental in shaping Mexico’s formal declaration of independence, and he served in a wide variety of legislative and judicial posts as the new Mexican government took shape. In recognition of his contributions, President Porfirio Díaz named the new state after Quintana Roo in 1902.

    b) Quintana Roo became a separate territory on November 24, 1902, by decree of President Porfirio Díaz.

    2) Quintana Roo's pronunciation is consistent with standard Spanish: "Keen-tahn-ah Roe" , with the last syllable extended somewhat, given that it's a double-o. ( ... found by searching ["Quintana Roo" pronounce])

    The same search led to this discussion of the origin of the "Roo" surname. (It's the surname of Andres' mother.

    Some excerpts from that discussion:

    a) "His father was Matías Quintana and his mother was María Ana Roo."

    b) The name (Roo) is not from Spanish or Mexican but from Flemish origin. It might come or has connection to "Roveres" and/or "Roberes" that changed later into "Roovere" and finally into "Roo"!? There was a discussion going on here (in Spanish) [] which might help you/us to determine not only the origin (what I think is clear by now) but also the meaning of "Roo" (or "Róo", as another variance of this name with more Spanish "touch" regarding pronunciation)

  3. My answer to Q4: This sounds to me like the tree that produces "chicle" ... "a natural gum traditionally used in making chewing gum and other products. It is collected from several species of Mesoamerican trees in the Manilkara genus, including M. zapota, M. chicle, M. staminodella, and M. bidentata. tree, which is native to Mesoamerica."

    A simple search finds many articles that give the story of the rise and fall of its use in chewing gum:

    a) -- The word chicle comes from the Nahuatl word for the gum, tziktli ([ˈt͡sikt͡ɬi]), which can be translated as "sticky stuff". Alternatively, "chichle" may have come from the Mayan word tsicte.[3] Chicle was well known to the Aztecs and to the Maya, and early European settlers prized it for its subtle flavor and high sugar content.

    "Both the Aztecs and Maya traditionally chewed chicle. It was chewed as a way to stave off hunger, freshen breath, and keep teeth clean. Chicle was also used by the Maya as a filling for tooth cavities.

    Historically, the Adams Chewing Gum Company was a prominent user of this ingredient in the production of chewing gum. ... By the 1960s, most chewing gum companies had switched from using chicle to butadiene-based synthetic rubber which was cheaper to manufacture. Only a handful of small gum companies still use chicle, including Glee Gum, Simply Gum, and Tree Hugger Gum.

    A history of chicle was published in 2009: "Chicle: The Chewing Gum of the Americas, from the Ancient Maya to William Wrigley" by Jennifer P. Mathews ( Here's a link to an NPR article and book excerpt:

    Here's a brief summary of the origin of chicle's use in chewing gum:

    Mathews says that the story of chewing gum as we know it started when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the 11-time president of Mexico, met with amateur inventor Thomas Adams during his exile in Staten Island, New York.

    "[Santa Ana] wanted to return to power, so he was looking for someone who could re-invent a new rubber substitute so he could fund his return to the presidency," says Mathews. "He had brought a store of chicle from Vera Cruz and basically, they worked for months trying to vulcanize it the way Charles Goodyear had with rubber and it simply didn't work."

    Santa Ana returned to Mexico penniless, leaving Adams with more chicle than he knew what to do with. One day, the intentor wandered into a candy store and saw a young girl ordering paraffin wax gum. He realized that "kids loved the paraffin wax gum and that chicle was the perfect ingredient to make something along those lines," says Mathews.

    Adams called his candy "Chicklets." Within a few years, candy maven William Wrigley got into the act, adding sugar and flavor to create Spearmint and Juicy Fruit.

    Wrigley also began a massive advertising campaign to introduce gum to the American public: "At one point, he sent a pack of chewing gum to every resident listed in the United States phone book," says Mathews.

    During World War II, Wrigley convinced the U.S. Army to include chewing gum in the rations of soldiers. Soldiers, in turn, spread the habit around the world, putting such a high demand on chicle that a synthetic substitute had to be found, making chicle-based gum a rarity.

    "In the 1940s [Wrigley] basically stopped importing the chicle latex from places like Guatemala and Mexico," says Mathews.

    Although I'm no longer a gum chewer (too many bitten lips and cheeks), I certainly remember Chicklets. :-)

  4. My answer to Q1:

    The top answer to my query [cenote pattern locations Yucatan] was a UNESCO World Heritage Centre website headlined: "Ring of cenotes of Chicxulub Crater, Yucatan" (, which seems to answer both aspects of the question:


    The Chicxulub Impact Crater, is a geomorfological formation dating from the end of the Mesozoic era, specifically by the end of the Cretaceous at the limits with the Terciary, that was produced by the impact of a meteorite.

    As a result of the above, the Ring of Cenotes, took shape, making together with the results in the geomorphology of the north of Yucatan, from the impact crater, the foundation for the functioning of the geohydrologic features of the peninsula. ...

    ... the Cenotes (sink holes), are linked to processes of dilution of the materials of the karst soils, and widely distributed along the entire so called Ring, ...

    As part of the several karst manifestations of the Peninsula of Yucatan (including caves, and caverns); the cenotes, cannot be explained by the traditional theory of the common karst manifestations. ...

    The Ring of Cenotes geographically is identifiable by a semi regular belt of proximately 5 kilometers wide, extended inland into continental territory of the Yucatan from north west starting at the latitude of Celestun in the west coast, and continuing down south till around the middle part of the state, at the latitudes of the municipalities, of Tekit, Homún y Huhí, and going back north again, towards the north east, till reaching the latitudes of Dzilam Gonzalez, in the east coast. This forms a semi circular band that bends down in a shape of an hyperbola, having as the centre of its perimeter, the locality of Chicxulub Puerto, (in the Municipality of Progreso), where it is known to be located the centre of the well known the Chicxilub Impact Crater, not visible but recordable its existence, ...

  5. the adventure of diving when there is no surface…
    looks a wee bit disorienting & forbidding in places… the Mayan spirits and all… who knew jaguars could swim/felidae aqualung?
    ♆otherworldly dive… what kind of mushrooms were in the salad?♒
    "In the later Maya civilization, the jaguar was believed to facilitate communication between the living and the dead and to protect the royal household. The Maya saw these powerful felines as their companions in the spiritual world, and a number of Maya rulers bore names that incorporated the Mayan word for jaguar (b'alam in many of the Mayan languages)." wiki
    'Chicle' - NPR overview
    Jennifer P. Mathews - Quintana Roo Archaeology
    Mathews - Trinity University.
    twin gum
    … meanwhile, here on Goose Island, Chicago… I'll leave it to you to deduce a connection…
    check the North & Cherry Avenue bridges if you are looking…
    WGIC - the "plex" gum built
    tour - "an asymmetric bob-tail swing bridge"
    this seems all gummed up…
    Wrigley Field & football… wha?
    & the more familiar… da cUBS

    A-Z… could I have a side of mayan deity with that?
    Zipacna, 'Demonic personification of the earth's crust.'
    the (earth's crust) Krusty mantra…

    a different sort of 'aqualung' - idnkt
    potential danger in aqueous environment

    ¡Hundiéndose en!

  6. ♒where?… Cancunhagen - two eyes park☄
    ♒it's an interesting mix, somehow calming - B'alam is taking it in stride☄
    the way to the Bat Cave revealed…
    gMaps - do they ever enlist you in your travels?
    entry Dos Ojos
    entry - The "El Pit" Cenote
    Cenotes Sac Actún
    "In 1936, a simple morphometry-based classification system for cenotes was presented.
    • Cenotes-cántaro (Jug or pit cenotes) are those with a surface connection narrower than the diameter of the water body;
    • Cenotes-cilíndricos (Cylinder cenotes) are those with strictly vertical walls;
    • Cenotes-aguadas (Basin cenotes) are those with shallow water basins; and
    grutas (Cave cenotes) are those having a horizontal entrance with dry sections."
    NYT gum writ - Kreskin-esque is its timing
    the esthetics of the chew
    a sticky SERP

    1. Hi Remmij, thanks for the links. Your photos made me remember Cancun Underwater Museum of Art (MUSA) I wonder if Dr. Russell visited

      In Video

      Also available on Google Street View

    2. Hi Dr. Russell, Remmij and everyone.

      Thanks Remmij for the links. California Craters, Maars and links are very interesting and new for me. About previous comment about grutas: [grutas cacahuamilpa] those are the ones I remember at the moment

      Also very beautiful and interesting Nature related (posted in past Challenges)

    3. Alas, I wanted to see the MUSA, but didn't have the time. NEXT trip.

      And I DO contribute to G-maps, but I haven't done any underwater streetviews.... yet.

      Thanks also for the pointer to the UC Merced student. I teach there occasionally, and will look him up next time I'm there.

  7. Hi Dan! I'm new to your site and super excited to have found a resource like this as a student in a Library and Information Science Program. I hope to make my ways through your old challenges as a systematic way of improving my reference skills.

    1. The pattern the cenotes take forms a semicircle, collectively they are known as the “Ring of Cenotes.” What caused them to form is a meteorite that hit the earth near a town called Chicxulub, now the site of the Chicxulub Crater. This search was a mess, I know because I can’t remember how I found this page that led me to the answer:

    2. It was named after an early patriot of the Mexican Republic, Andrés Quintana Roo. Roo might possibly be the surname of his mom?

    3. Quintana Roo became a state of Mexico the region became a federal state only in 1974. The search I used was [Mexican state quintana roo], I clicked on the third link to an Encyclopedic source.

    4. The sap of the Sapodilla tree was used to make a specific type of gum known as chicle. I found this by searching [gum tree mexico] which referenced the Sapodilla tree, and then a second search for [sapodilla tree gum mexico].