Cozumel

 

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Cozumel (Mayan for Island of Swallows) is located in the Caribbean Ocean off the eastern coast off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is one of the eight municipalities of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.

The Mayan Civilization
The Maya are believed to have settled Cozumel by the early part of the first millennium A.D., and older Preclassic Olmec artifacts have been found on the island as well. Originally the Maya established themselves in the Yucatan Peninsula around 2600 B.C. Their culture and influence then spread throughout southern Mexico, Guatemala, northern Belize, western Honduras and El Salvador.

From A.D. 250 to 700 the highly advanced Maya civilization was at its peak.
The Maya considered Cozumel a sacred shrine. The island was home to Ixchel or Ix Chel, the goddess of fertility. The temples were a place of pilgrimage, especially by women desiring fertility who would make the twelve mile journey by canoe to worship the goddess. Each woman was expected to make the pilgrimage at least once during her lifetime. Ixhcel was also associated with the moon, medice and rain.

The Conquest
The first Spanish visitor was Juan Grijalva in 1518 after he was blown off course on his way back from Cuba. The following year Hernán Cortés came with a fleet and destroyed many Mayan temples. When Cortés left the island, not only did the native civilizations lie in ruins, but also an outbreak of smallpox swept through the island killing thousands. From the population of 40,000 that Cortés reported in 1519, there were a mere 300 by 1570.


Corsairs and Pirates
In the ensuing years Cozumel became completely abandoned and later was used by pirates as a hideaway. The pirate Captain Henry Morgan, used the island as a stop during his raids around the Caribbean, and Captain Jean Lafitte, caroused the waters near Cozumel hiding from his pursuers. Often hiding their treasures in the Maya’s catacombs and tunnels. By 1843 the island had again been abandoned. Cozumel was not resettled until 1848, during the War of the Castes which resulted in resettlement by refugees escaping the uproar. Often violent attempts by natives of Mayan ancestry to retain their lands lasted until surrender to government troops in 1901.

Recent Years
In 1961, Jacques Cousteau discovered the extent and beauty of Palancar, the coral reefs at the south of Cozumel and publicized it as one of the most beautiful scuba diving areas of the world.

By 1970, the population of Cozumel had reached 10,000 and today some 90,000 people inhabit this island paradise.

Punta Sur Ecological Reserve
This ecological reserve is an environmentally friendly park with a variety of tourist attractions including a working lighthouse, coastal dunes, mangroves, reefs, lagoon systems and beautiful beaches. Celarain Lighthouse at Punta Sur is a major part of the islandís history, which has withstood many hurricanes. Anyone can explore and climb the winding stairs to the top for a beautiful view. The base of the lighthouse features a museum with exhibitions of the islandís nautical history. The famous Mayan ruin El Caracol, suspected to have been an ancient lighthouse, can also be seen at Punta Sur.

The breathtaking beaches and lagoons are homes to a variety of wildlife including turtles, coral reefs and many exotic fish species. The beaches at Punta Sur are expansive with crystal clear water and white sand. Colombia lagoon can be enjoyed through a 40 minute guided catamaran tour. Punta Sur is the perfect place for the nature enthusiast or anyone who seeks to enjoy a relaxing and natural day in Cozumel.

For tours to Punta Sur Wildlife Reseerve visit Isla Cozumel Day Pass

San Gervasio Archeological Site
San Gervasio is the most important historical Mayan site on Cozumel and the largest Maya establishment found on the island to date. San Gervasio was a sacred Maya site. It was also a strategic site for commerce and politics in the area.†This historical destination was a sanctuary to Ix Chel, the goddess of fertility. It was and an obligatory pilgrimage for Mayas, once during their lifetime, to visit Ix Chel. On the walls of the buildings you can see ancient drawings and aspects of the rich culture of the Mayas. One of the most interesting buildings is the Temple of the Hands. Inside there are numerous small red handprints of unknown significance painted on the wall, perhaps it was an ancient daycare center for Mayan mothers!

San Gervasio is a place where one can explore Mayan culture and its mysteries.Guided bilingual tours are available or you can experience this amazing destination on your own; but make sure to visit this unique archeological site.

For tours to San Gervasio Archeological Site visit Isla Cozumel Day Pass

The Island's Museum
For a comprehensive look into the history of Cozumel visit the Museo de la Isla (The Islandís Museum). This interesting and educational museum features information on Cozumelís ecosystems and reefs, the geological evolution of the island, the Mayan legacy and the history of Cozumelís founders. A major highlight and attraction of Museo de la Isla is ďLa Casita MayaĒ (The Small Mayan House) which is a representation of the true way of Mayan life and ancient customs. Guided tours are available at Museo de la Isla; but make sure to visit to experience and understand the rich history behind the magical island of Cozumel.

Three blocks left from San Miguel Pier downtown. For more information, visit: www.cozumelparks.com.

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