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COZUMEL, MEXICO

We have been in Cozumel with the Costa Fortuna Cruise. It is a beautiful place, where you can see Maya ruins, snorkeling or scuba diving, go to the beach and much more. The best way to move around is rent a scotter, small motorbike, and you can drive all the island around. Cozumel (Mayan: Island of the Swallows) (Kùutsmil in Modern Maya) is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, opposite the Playa del Carmen, and close to the Yucatan Channel. Cozumel is one of the nine municipalities (municipios) of the state of Quintana Roo. Cozumel is a tourist destination for its scuba diving and snorkeling. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel.

The island is about 48 km (30 miles) north-south and 16 km (10 miles) east-west, and is the largest Atlantic island of Mexico. (It is the third-largest island in Mexico, following Tiburón Island and Isla Ángel de la Guarda.) It is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the mainland, and some 60 km (36 miles) south of Cancún.

The vast majority of the population of Cozumel lives in the town of San Miguel, which is on the western shore. The municipality, which includes two small areas on the mainland enclaved within the Municipality of Solidaridad with a land area of 10.423 km² (4.024 sq mi), has a total land area of 647.33 km² (249.93 sq mi).

The rest of the island is low, flat, and densely vegetated. The island, including offshore islets, has a land area of 477.961 km² (184.54 sq mi). The two areas that are on the mainland are the Calica limestone quarry, near Playa del Carmen and Xcaret, and the Xel-Há Water Park, near the Xelha archaeological ruins

The Maya are believed to have first settled Cozumel by the early part of the 1st millennium AD, and older Preclassic Olmec artifacts have been found on the island as well. The island was sacred to Ix Chel, the Maya Moon Goddess, and the temples here were a place of pilgrimage, especially by women desiring fertility. There are a number of ruins on the island, most from the Post-Classic period. The largest Maya ruins on the island were bulldozed to make way for an airplane runway during World War II. The ruins of San Gervasio are located approximately at the center of the island and are the largest remaining ruins.

The first Spanish visitor was Juan de Grijalva in 1518 , and in the following year Hernán Cortés came with a fleet and destroyed many Maya temples. Some 40,000 Mayans lived on the island then, but the smallpox disease devastated them, and by 1570 only 30 were left alive. In the ensuing years Cozumel was nearly deserted, just used as a hideout by pirates from time to time. In 1848, the Caste War of Yucatán resulted in resettlement by refugees escaping the tumult. A plaque at the Museo Cozumel states that Abraham Lincoln as the American President came close to purchasing the island of Cozumel as a place to send the freed slaves. The continued war in the Yucatan caused him to change his mind.



March 2010

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