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A Quick Tour around Cozumel History
Our Mayan Ancestors
The Mayans called the main island of the Mayan world “Cuzamil.” The name is derived from the Mayan words “Cuzam” and “LUMI” which means “land or place of the swallows.” Eventually the name was changed by the Spanish to COZUMEL.
In those days the island was considered a shrine, sacred land dedicated to the worship of Ix-Chel, Mayan goddess of fertility, moon, floods, and everything related to the feminine. Females were required to make a pilgrimage to the island before reaching puberty to ask the goddess for fertility and successful childbearing.
The first Spanish expedition to visit Cozumel was led by Juan de Grijalva on May 3rd, 1518. The following year Hernán Cortés stopped by the island on his way to Veracruz. The Grijalva and Cortés expeditions were both received peacefully by the Maya of Cozumel, unlike other expeditions on the mainland. Even after Cortés destroyed some of the Maya idols on Cozumel and replaced them with an image of the Virgin Mary, the native inhabitants of the island continued to help the Spanish re-supply their ships with food and water so they could continue their voyages.
The small town of El Cedral, on the south side of Cozumel conducts the most important religious celebration of the Island. This annual event is said to have started over 150 years ago by Casimiro Cárdenas. Cárdenas was one of a group that fled to the island from the village of Sabán, on the mainland, after an attack during the War of the Castes. The attackers killed many of the villagers, but Cárdenas survived whilst clutching a small wooden cross.
Legend has it that Cárdenas vowed to start an annual festival wherever he settled, to honor the religious power of this crucifix. Today, the original Holy Cross Festival forms part of the wider Festival of El Cedral, which includes fairs, traditional feasts, rodeos, bullfights, music, and competitions. The celebrations last about 5 days in all and are held every year at the end of April or beginning of May.