Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) is a colourful island with plenty of history, it got its name when the Spanish slave trader Francisco Hernandez Cordova on his way to Cuba arrived on the island to add to his human cargo but found no inhabitants only statues of nude females. No coincidence as the island was a Mayan sanctuary to the goddess Ixchel, the goddess of love, fertility and medicine.
It’s inevitable, sooner or later any female sanctuary is bound to be discovered by men and that is when the problems start. How times change, in the 1800’s Isla became a haven for pirates, amongst them was Fermin Antonio Mundaca a slave trader and less of a convincing pirate who settled on Isla in 1858. I would like to think that he got his comeuppances for his misdoings from the island’s Mayan goddess of love “Ixchel”. It’s said he died drunk in a brothel of a broken heart after falling in love with a local girl 37 years his junior and to whom he dedicated his huge island mansion and inscribed her name on its front arch, as it happens she wanted nothing to do with him and married another man Boohoohooo.
Pirates and Buccaneers – Legends and Buried Treasure
Here is an exert of how things panned out after the island’s discovery by the Spanish:
Isla’s strategic location plus the protective waters of its Lagoon made a perfect refuge for pirates and buccaneers. It was from the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan that the Spanish transported massive amounts of gold to Europe and the pirates took advantage of the opportunity to blunder the merchant ships. Legend has it that they kept their women here while they went out plundering, another reason Isla is called “The Island of Women”. Infamous pirates such as Henry Morgan and Jean Lafitte, who made Isla his home, walked these shores.
… you can now also add Nick Yiannopoulos (whose claim to piracy extends to one possible movie download) plus a few million other tourists.
Arriving on Isla Mujeres
We arrived on Isla Mujeres (pronounced “Muheres”) in good Mexican style, although it was just a 20 minute ferry ride we were serenaded not by mariachi but with hard rock all the way across. On the island we immediately felt considerably more laid-back than we even did in Playa, there is no escaping it, it’s just 7 km long and a few hundred meters wide so it’s the beach or get a golf buggy and cruise the island, have a few Tequilas, some snacks on the beach and watch the modern descendants of goddess Ixchel strut the beach in their g-string beach wear.
A small town sits on the Northern end of the island surrounded by sea and beautiful white sand palm fringed beaches, the streets are lane-ways of colorful buildings strewn with places to eat and $3 margarita cocktails. This is the cold season with 29 degrees Celsius in the day dropping to a bracing 24 at night, the tourists flock to the beach where the sea is warm and balmy whilst the locals are getting out the winter clothes.
We took a golf buggy and toured the island, even at that slow speed it takes less than an hour to complete the round trip. On the most southern tip sits a Mayan temple to the goddess Ixchel, the first place to catch the morning sun, a reminder of Isla’s Mayan history.
We spend our days on the beach lapping up the sun with the occasional trip to a cafe to replenish our fluids, in the evening it’s find a restaurant and some entertainment.
A local outdoor music festival is running for the next three days with performances from Mexico, the Caribbean and Cuba but in good Mexican style the schedule is very fluid, things could happen within an hour or two of their planned time. Events range from local dance groups, energetic Caribian rhythms to polished Cuban bands
In the morning it’s back to the beach.
and maybe some more mariachi music.
We might stay a little longer to get the hang of this lifestyle…