Friday, May 7, 2010

History of Isla Mujeres

Isla is about 4miles long and 1.5 miles wide (at the thickest part)
The triangle part at the top right is North Beach, this is where we stayed.

The TINY RED dot is Isla Mujeres
The Green shows Quintana Roo

The square is the condo we stayed in, Ixchel.
(Click this map to view bigger)

Isla Mujeres has a long and colorful history. In Mayan times Isla Mujeres was called Ekab, it was one of the four provinces or Mayan territories that formed what is today the State of Quintana Roo. The island served as the sanctuary for the goddess Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of fertility, reason, medicine, happiness and the moon. The Temple was located at the South point of the island and was also used as the lighthouse. The light from torches was shown through holes in the walls, which could be seen by the navigators at sea. The Mayans also came to the island to harvest salt from the salt lagoons.

In March of the year 1517, Francisco Hernandez Cordova discovered the island. When the Spanish expedition landed, they found many female shaped idols representing the goddess Ixchel, thus Isla Mujeres got its name.

For the next three centuries Isla Mujeres was uninhabited. The only visitors were fisherman and pirates who used Isla as a refuge and left their women on the island "for safekeeping" while they sailed the high seas. Famous pirates like Henry Morgan and Jean Lafitte walked the shores of Isla and as legend goes, buried their stolen treasure under the white sands.

Fermin Anonio Mundaca y Marecheaga was born in October of the year 1825 in the village Bermeo of Santa Maria, Spain. After completing his studies he set out for the New World to make his fortune. He arrived on the shores of Isla in 1858 after acquiring his wealth selling captured Mayan slaves to Cuban plantations and some say pirating. Whether or not this is true, no one knows but Mundaca cultivated and enjoyed his reputation as a pirate.

Mundaca immediately set out building a large hacienda he named "Vista Alegre" (Happy View) which eventually covered over 40% of the island. There were areas for livestock, birds, vegetables gardens, fruit orchards and exotic plants that were brought from all over the world. A special garden called "The Rose of the Winds" was constructed which served as a sundial telling the time of the day by its shadows.

This is his empty grave he built himself.

In 1862 Martiniana (Prisca) Gomez Pantoja was born. She was one of five sisters and it has been said that she was a willowy woman with green eyes, white skin bronzed by the Caribbean sun and long, straight hair. Called "La Triguena" (the brunette), many men fell in love with her including Mundaca. The arches above the gates were dedicated to her, naming them "The Entrance of the Triguena" and "The Pass of the Triguena" in hopes his wealth and power would win the local beauty 37 years younger then himself. His dedication was in vain, she married a man closer to her own age and as legend tells it, Fermin Mundaca slowly went insane and died, alone in Merida. His empty tomb still awaits him in the Isla Mujeres cemetery. Carved by his own hands are the skull and cross bones, in memory of his pirating days and the words meant for his love, "As you are, I was. As I am, you will be".

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