A Little History About Isla Mujeres Mexico

Also Known as the Island of Women or Simply Paradise!


Isla Mujeres was discovered by a spanish expedition on 4 March 1517. Francisco Hernández Córdoba, who was leading the expedition, gave Isla Mujeres it's name. On the island he found female shaped idols which were representations of the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, whose sanctuary was on Isla Mujeres. For Mayans, the island was very important because it was the last place where they could find salt when they were on route to the Gulf of Honduras. Salt was an indispensable element, not only to conserve the meat that was part of their diet, it was also used as an object of commerce or exchange. Ixchel was one of the principal goddesses of the Maya, whose culture was very strong until the Postclassical period (650 AC). Their culture began to decline as a result of the wars that other Mexican cultures, like the Toltecs, brought upon them. Ixchel was considered the Moon Goddess. The Maya associated the moon with fertility, not only of the land but also of human reproduction. For that reason, Ixchel is also called the Goddess of delivery, of abundance, the fabric and the medicine. Many times Ixchel is seen as an old woman without teeth but in some ruins, like in Naj-Tunich in Guatemala, she is portrayed as a young woman. On Isla Mujeres there was more than one Mayan observatory at the south point of the island. Unfortunately, the years have deteriorated them. You can still see the remains of the last ruin but it is close to falling into the sea. These observatories were important for the Mayan navigators who traveled the caribbean coast. At night, observatories like the one on the south point, were used as lighthouses. The light from torches shown through large holes in the observatory walls were seen by the navigators at sea. For three centuries after Isla Mujeres was discovered by the Spanish in 1517 it was uninhabited. Because of it's strategic location, it became an ideal hiding place for many famous pirates like Henry Morgan, El Olonés, Diego el Mulato, Lorencillo, Pata de Palo and Jean Lafitte. Stories of hidden treasures and jewels under the white sands are characteristic of Isla Mujeres, where you can still hear tales of ghostly apparitions of pirates and slaves. When the classic piracy declined at the beginning of the 19th century, the island began to be visited by Cuban/Spanish fisherman and people from Campeche and the Yucatán who came during the season to catch marine turtles, Sharks and Jewfish. The abundance of salt used for the preservation of meat promoted the fishing activity. From the Carey Turtle they used the shell and they extracted the vitamin A from the shark oil. This lasted until the 1930s when the manufacturing of this product was synthesized. The collection of sea sponges was another lucrative activity for the local fisherman. After becoming inhabited once more, refugees from the conflicts between the Maya and white people went to the safety of Isla Mujeres, Cozumel and Holbox forming villages in only three years. The Maya of the peninsula had stopped navigating the waters of the Caribbean since the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Fermin Antonio Mundaca y Marecheaga, a slave trader who took African natives to Antillas to be sold, was born in 1825 in the village Bermeo in Vizcaya, Spain. He arrived at Isla in 1858. It has been said that a shipwreck brought him to Isla's shores. The village on Isla, named Pueblo de Dolores by the Yucatán Governor Don Miguel Barbachano, had been thriving for more then 8 years when Mundaca arrived. The name lasted only twenty years. Between the years 1858 and 1870, Mundaca rented his boats to the Government of Yucatán to capture and persecute the rebel Maya along the coast. These Maya were sold as slaves to the large Cuban plantations. The Yucatán Government considered Mundaca "patriotic" and gave him the post of Spanish consul of Isla Mujeres. Mundaca used his fortune to build a large hacienda named "Vista Alegre" which covered over 40 percent of the island. He found the locals to be passive fisherman and their families who offered no resistance to his dismantling the ruins and using the worked stones of the Goddess Ixchel's sanctuary to construct his hacienda. The ornamental details of the stones gave a singular value to his construction. The hacienda was filled with livestock, aquatic birds and large gardens with exotic plants brought from the Orient. One area named the "Pink garden of the winds" was actually constructed to be a solar watch. The large entrance arch was called "El Paso de la Trigueña", the entrance of the Trigueña, dedicated to a young and beautiful girl from the village named Martiniana Gómez Pantoja, born in 1862 and nicknamed, of course, la Trigueña (the brunette). Mundaca fell in love with this local beauty, 37 years younger than himself. But she preferred to marry a man closer to her own age and had many children while Mundaca slowly became more isolated, lonely, egoistic and some say, mad. Fermin Mundaca died, still in love with Martiniana, at the age of 55 in Mérida. He was buried there but his empty tomb awaits him in the Cemetery of Isla Mujeres. The symbols of the pirate trade, the skull and cross-bones adorn his gravestone where he carved the words with his own hand:

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