The south of Mexico is full of fantastic stories, legends and myths which help shed light on the way the ancient Maya worldview. If you have visited the Yucatán Peninsula, Cancún or the Riviera Maya, you may have heard of a certain poisonous tree (Metopium toxiferum) and its benevolent counterpart (Bursera simaruba), both of which grow in the jungles of Southern Mexico. The following is the story of how these two plants got their names: Chechén and Chacá.
Maya folklore has it that, once upon a time, there were two brothers, Kinich and Tizic, both the bravest of warriors, equal in strength but very different in their hearts. Kinich – the younger of the two – was a kind soul, warm as the sun it was said, beloved by all the people of their village. Tizic, on the other hand, had a cold and angry soul. Some even would even say he was fury personified.
One day Kinich met Nicté-Ha, a beautiful young woman with dark eyes, a sweet smile and warm heart of her own. The most splendid creation of the gods. Unfortunately, Nicté-Ha’s beauty was not lost on the cold-hearted, Tizic. As it sometimes happens, both brothers fell in love with the same girl.
It just so happened that Nicté-Ha’s kindness was such that it managed to make Tizic’s cold heart melt. He soon found that could not let her go and thus challenged his brother for the love of Nicté-Ha.
Anxious about the nearing duel, the gods filled the sky with dark clouds and hid the moon for several nights. Unfortunately, the battle ended tragically… both brothers died, and the villagers mourned the loss of their two warriors.
In the underworld, Tizic and Kinich were ashamed of their quarrel, realizing they would never get the chance to be with their beloved Nicté-Ha again. Thus, both brothers begged the gods for a chance to see the lovely maiden one last time.
The gods sort of granted their wish, transforming Tizic into a Chechén tree with his dark soul turned into the black poison sap that to this date burns the skin of anyone who touches it. Kinich, on the other hand, was reborn as a Chacá tree, the sap of which heals the hurt and pain caused by his brother. Because of this, a chechén tree will be always be found close to a Chacá tree.
Unfortunately, Nicté-Ha also met a tragic fate. She died of grief upon learning of the two brothers’ deaths. As they did with the two brothers, the gods transformed her into a beautiful white flower that grows by the water.