I spoke to Doña Romana Cetina de Chay in her small kitchen where limes in sugar syrup boiled away on the stove while she rapidly formed balls made of grated cooked coconut and sweet potato at her table. Doña Romana inherited the business over 30 years ago from her mother, Doña Fermina Sansen who invented the papaya filled with coconut sweet and began to sell it and other candies in the street on a tricycle to support her family.
In those days there were no mixers or ovens, just strong arms to mix and firewood to cook. What they did have were coconuts, papaya, limes, eggs and sugar, and with much effort the business became successful.
Today Doña Romana and her husband produce a great variety of sweets with the aid of their son, the owner of El Globo bakery where the sweets can also be purchased. Her granddaughter tends the small road stand. Over the years other residents of the area have copied her creations and today there are many places on the coast selling sweets, but the Chay family is the original as well as the three time winner of the Regional Sweet Contest held by the Yucatán Cultural Institute in the 1990s.
Here are some of the ways you can sweeten your life in Telchac Puerto: coconut balls, coconut and sweet potato balls, meringue with lime, coconut cream, coconut chunks in caramel (like coconut brittle), tamarind, marzipan of coconut or squash seeds, limes filled with coconut, papaya filled with coconut, caramel coconut squares, coconut pie, and empanaditas filled with coconut or sweet potato.
Editorial by Linda Roth
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