Sunday, January 17, 2021

Isla Mujeres Daily News & Events Sunday, January 17

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A tale of ancient times, a secret cemetery and some "other" ruins of Isla Mujeres that no one talks about.

     Many people mistakenly think that the Mayan temple-observatory on the southern point (Punta Sur) of Isla Mujeres is the only ruin on the island. In 2014, a second temple foundation (photo #3) was discovered under the old monkey cage on the Mundaca Hacienda, along with an abundance of relics and religious offerings, and an ancient cemetery. There are also dozens of Mayan ruins on the mainland area of Isla Mujeres, including the Archeological Zone of "El Meco", the ancient Mayan port that once served the island, which is now an inexpensive tourist attraction. (photo #1: View of the island from El Castillo at the El Meco ruins by Mauro I. Barea G.)
      When excavating the Mundaca site on the isle, more than 100 relics were found including items from the sea such as spines from rays and turtle shells, as well as items made of wood, earth, stone, ceramic, jade and obsidian. There were offerings of honey and copal incense, as well as many broken incense holders. Local historian Fidel Villanueva Madrid said at least five ancient buildings have been detected on the Mundaca estate, and there could have been seven "but only one has been worked on". Eight underground cisterns/cultunes were found, as well as human skeletons in an ancient cemetery to the west, near Playa Lancheros.
       Both of these temples were dedicated to Ixchel, goddess of the moon, medicine, midwifery, fertility, and textiles. Mayan girls on the verge of adulthood came to Isla Mujeres to honor Ixchel with a figurine in the shape of a woman. The Mayans collected salt on the isle and left offerings in appreciation and in hope of future abundance, as well as for fertility and successful births. Salt was used for tanning and preservation of hides, in addition to preserving and seasoning food.
      The Punta Sur ruin is perched on the highest elevation in the region and presumed to have nautical significance, as well as serving as an astronomical observatory. It's located on the easternmost point in the Mayan world, overlooking their tallest building along the coast. The four buildings at Punta Sur were still in use when the Spaniards arrived in 1507, although the isle appeared to be uninhabited. By the 1840's, only two foundations and one building remained, due to erosion of the limestone cliff during the ensuing three centuries. Later, the site suffered further damage from pillaging and hurricanes, and was partially rebuilt in the late 1980's.
       The most extensive ruin in the municipality of Isla Mujeres is located across the Bay, between Puerto Juarez & Punta Sam, where a Mayan commercial and religious center served as a port of embarkation for the island. The "El Meco" archeological site includes the tallest Mayan building on the eastern coast, whose orientation toward Punta Sur emphasizes the city's relationship with the island, and differs from other coastal sites like Tulum and Paamul, whose major pyramids are oriented inland. (Andrews and Robles: 1986/133.) The old Mayan harbor and ancient residential area on the other side of the road haven't been excavated.
       The staircase of El Castillo is bordered with carved serpents' heads, and at 17 meters tall, the pyramid offers impressive, strategic views of the Caribbean and nearby lagoons. (Climbing it is no longer allowed & the site hasn't reopened since closing for Covid. The entrance fee is 55 pesos, free for residents on Sundays, with plenty of shade, and its modest size makes it easily walk-able. It's generally uncrowded with ~13,000 visitors yearly compared to Chichen Itza's 2.4 million.) The site's original name is unknown, "El Meco" was the nickname of the 19th caretaker who resided on the small ranch around it.
       Archeologists say that El Meco shared associations with the island in relation to the salt trade and religious pilgrimages. The mainland port was part of a commercial maritime network from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of Honduras, with Mayan merchants traveling along the coast in massive dugout canoes, such as the one encountered on Columbus' fourth voyage at the Bay Islands of Honduras. Young Fernando Columbus enjoyed Mayan beer made from fermented corn, and the finely garbed merchants provided the Europeans with their first exposure to chocolate. The Mayan "canoe" carried ~40 passengers including merchants, their families, and about 25 oarsmen. It was eight feet wide, 'as long as a galley' (~50ft), with a cabin in the middle. Columbus compared it a Venetian gondola and described their fine textiles, weapons made of flint (probably actually obsidian), and copper goods including cups, bells and hatchets. Mayan murals portray their boats with raised, curved bows and sterns. In the days following their discovery of Isla Mujeres, the Spaniards observed many large Mayan canoes carrying up to 50 people at nearby settlements.
        In addition to salt, another important item supplied by the coastal Mayan merchants was stingray spines, which were used in bloodletting ceremonies. Other commodities included honey & beeswax, furs & hides, cotton textiles, feathers, jade, obsidian, amber, quartz, medicinal herbs, copal, farm animals, salted fish, grains, metals, cacao, and slaves.
       The Maya built a series of stone structures along the coast that look like simple shrines, but in fact, many of them are maritime markers indicating positions, distances, shelters, coves, lagoons, villages, dangerous points, and the correct places to pass through the barrier reefs.
       North American archaeologist Anthony P. Andrews said that of 400 pre-Hispanic sites located on the coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula and Belize, 150 are from the Post Classic period, and of these, 50 served as important ports for Mayan maritime commerce, including Ekab and El Meco, in the municipality of Isla Mujeres. Our town historian, Fidel Villanueva Madrid, says there are more than 35 minor ruins that farmers have fortuitously found in the the Continental Zone of Isla Mujeres. He said significant ruins in the municipality include those at Boca Iglesia, Rancho Viejo, Sosquilchak, Nohoch Mul, Nohoch Pich, Mi Ruina, El Ramonal, Ecab, Paso Poot, and Isla Contoy.
       Andrews says the Maya avoided going out into the open sea and preferred to navigate the quiet coastal lagoons, but this was not always possible, such as when they sailed to Isla Contoy. Scientific journalist Juan José Morales commented on the Mayan sailors knowledge of local winds and the sea conditions, noting, "When they sailed to Central America, they did it near the coast to take advantage of the counter-currents, but when they returned they traveled farther from the coast to take advantage of the Caribbean current that flows northward."
    The first explorers visiting the Yucatan coasts in 1517 commented on the impressive native buildings, comparing them to the fine architecture of Seville, Spain. The first conquerors put an end to nautical mercantilism by the Maya. In the following centuries, the Spanish focused on demolition of Mayan edifices and eliminating the "idolatry" of the natives. 
    Around 1500 years ago, during the Early Classic period, El Meco was a small economically self-sufficient fishing village which was a dependency of the regional capital city of Coba. During the next few hundred years, residents gradually abandoned El Meco.
     Near the end of the Late Classic period (600-900 A.D.), El Meco's population swelled, and the inhabitants maintained contact with residents of the northwestern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula and the people of the Peten region (Belize-Guatemala). Evidence of these ties are found in El Meco's ceramic production and architecture.
     During the Postclassic period (~900 A.D. to the Spanish Conquest), the city played an important role in Mayan economic and religious affairs. El Meco participated in a trade network which transported goods overland, as well as along the ocean and lagoons. Every human settlement of the Yucatan Peninsula and several other locations were involved in this network. (Graphic #4) Exact data is unavailable regarding events leading to the site's total abandonment, and it is theorized this may have been due to changes in pre-Hispanic customs when the Spanish arrived to the coasts of Quintana Roo, and just afterwards.
     Written by Ronda Winn-Roberts for Isla Mujeres History, sponsored by
Maravilla Caribe Bed & Beach

 View of the island from El Castillo at the El Meco ruins . Photo credit: Mauro I. Barea G. 


The Triangles are Mayan ports,
The Dots are Mayan Archaeological Zones.
The Blue lines are Mayan Commercial Sea Routes,
The Red are Mayan Commercial Land Routes,
The Pale lines are the Mayan regional borders
The products are--Salt, Jade, Cacao/Cocoa, Obsidian, Cotton, Feathers, Basalt, Ceramics, Tools, Hides/Skins, and Honey.

 Below--El Meco in 1909.

Above--El Meco slide show:


   Yesterday-- Quintana Roo has administered 100% of the 4,875 doses of C-19 vaccine that were received on January 12th, which were given to front line C-19 workers. The graphic compares the percentages administered by each state and says there were 439,725 doses distributed.

Heraldo de Mexico reports that the federal Home Office Act has gone into effect establishing labor laws in relation to teleworking. It has requirements for employers to pay a portion of the employees electricity and internet bills; and says companies are responsible for installing and maintaining equipment they provide for their employees to work from home and employees are obligated to take good care of it and return the equipment in good condition. It says the workers have the right to not participate in electronic communications related to their employment which take place outside of their working hours; and those who work from home can't be paid less than those who work in-person. 

    Then the article clarifies that the legislators didn't define the proportion of the electricity bill, and said this applies when the bill increased during the pandemic due to home office work. It says it is proposed to agree on the portion of the electricity bill that will be paid if your work includes phone or video calls, the need for high speed internet, or the use of technological programs. It gives an email for the Secretary of Labor and explains how to file a complaint, noting that it can be anonymous and assistance is available from PROFEDET. 

 From the City (Ayuntamiento de Isla Mujeres)


 The discount on property taxes will be 15% for the remainder of January and 10% in February.

 Enjoy the landscapes of Isla Mujeres 


 La Tertulia 

Jan. 14--Leonel Povedano Castilla, president of the association of small hotel owners, Pequeños Hoteles Fascinantes, told La Tertulia that compared to December and January of last year, reservations are about 80% less and about 50% of the reservations have cancelled.  He said this is a time when there are usually many repeat visitors, but concerns about Covid-19 are causing cancellations. In addition to the winter season being complicated, hoteliers are not very hopeful about large numbers of visitors arriving for Semana Santa / Easter Week. They are hoping that the during the summer, domestic tourists will visit, along with the foreigners who delayed coming.


  This blog is brought to you by....

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Free amenities include hammocks, portable beach chairs, beach towels, washer & dryer, loungers, shared bikes, BBQ grill, and safes.  Panoramic views from the rooftop terrace. Large sliding doors open to a patio & the white sand backyard-beach, overlooking the Caribbean sea.  Downtown is  ~ a mile away; we're on all four bus routes or  flag a $3 taxi. Off street parking. In the quiet neighborhood of Bachilleres sleep to the sounds of the sea.$275/$325/$425 wk   $40/50/$65nt  Monthly Discounts
Fine dining a few steps away at Da Luisa or try the neighborhood eateries a couple blocks farther. We provide a list of links & direction to over 20 eateries within ten minutes walk, including Mango Cafe,  Mike's Pizza, Brisas, Rosa Sirena, Coco Jaguar, Manolitos, La Chatita, Green Verde, Kash Kechen Chuc, and the large department store-grocery Chedraui & the local craft brewery.  Visit marinas, bars, & beach clubs that are minutes away by bike or on foot. Attend Yoga classes a couple villas away at Casa Ixchel. Fresh juice, produce & tortillas a few blocks away in the village, as well as a variety of other stores.
Full moon rising over the Caribbean  


Full moon Jan 28 Thursday 6:40p

Jan 29 Friday at 7:41p

Jan 30 Saturday at 8:41p

Jan 31 Sunday at 9:40p

Feb 1 Monday at 10:39p

 Sunrise ~7:24

Sunset 6:21-6:37 (beginning vs end of month)


Public events have been suspended due to C-19. Holidays have featured online competitions and events. 

Jan. 6 Dia de los Tres Reyes/Three Kings Day

The Thor Heyerdahl traveling school-sailboat normally visits in late January-early February with about three dozen high school students on board. Under the tutelage of the experienced crew, the students learn to work together, sailing and navigating, as well as receiving their normal lessons. They sail from Germany to the Caribbean, but it's very possibly suspended this year. 

Sources for Weather Information:
LINK to Civil Protection Q Roo weather bulletin  (Spanish)
LINK to Mexico National Weather Service (Spanish)
 LINK to satellite images for the Mexico National Weather Service
 LINK to GOES East Band 16 GIF (animation)
LINK to a private weather station on Isla Mujeres


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