Island of women and pirates

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.

Mundaca's tomb calved by him. Never made it in as he died in a brothel drunk on a nearby island
Mundaca’s tomb, he carved it himself. Never made it in as he died in a brothel drunk on a nearby island

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

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In the morning it’s back to the beach.

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and maybe some more mariachi music.

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We might stay a little longer to get the hang of this lifestyle…

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The little houses have garish colours that work so well
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Just up from where we are staying another colourful example
Although the air and the sea are warm thunderstorms gather some afternoons
As quick as they come they are gone.
Then it’s time for a drink
and a second
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Time to leave the beach
Hard at work
Next morning at the cafe it’s back on the treadmill



  1. Sandra says:

    Hello Malene, hello Nick! Always reading your blog with great interest…. And envy ok I confess…. Do you realise that looking at your photos from London is very painful to my eyes and I have had to wear sunglasses each time?…. ? I don’t know where to start… I can see that your trip is going wonderfully and you both look great! I can’t wait to hear that you will be on your way to London… I can’t guarantee sunshine but certainly a bed! Until then, take care! Xx

    • Hi Sandra
      We hope you know that you are welcome to join us anytime you like… It would be fantastic to see you and there is plenty of sunshine for all of us! Thanks for keeping up with the blog and we would definitely love to stay with you (next year when it gets warmer haha).
      Take care you too
      Malene and Nick xx

  2. Michael&Yolanda says:

    beautiful photos and very interesting stories to ear with some drinks when you come back.
    we miss you.
    big big kiss

    • Hola amigos, Miguel y Yolanda
      Como esta? We are nearly fluente en espagnol haha. Not quite but we are practising and at least finding it a lot easier than Japanese. Maybe you can give us a few lessons when we get back. It’s great to hear from you and we often wonder how you are and what you are up to and how the house is coming along. Please have a drink for us and we’ll do the same.
      Malene and Nick

    • Nick and Malene says:

      Go Pedro and Snez
      Thanks for your wishes, I think Mexico would suit you guys, it’s so nice and laid back and a fraction of the price of Oz. We are just back from Cuba where a bottle of Rum is $3 at the freeway service station as for the rest everything there is a hard negotiation. Wishing you a great 2016 and hope to catch up soon.
      Nick and Malene

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