Cozumel

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Cozumel
Native name: Kùutsmil
Nickname: Cuzamil

Satellite image of Cozumel Island in 2001
Geography
LocationCaribbean Sea
Coordinates20°25′N 86°55′W / 20.417°N 86.917°W / 20.417; -86.917Coordinates: 20°25′N 86°55′W / 20.417°N 86.917°W / 20.417; -86.917
Total islands2
Area647.33 km2 (249.936 sq mi)
Highest point14
Country
Mexico
StateQuintana Roo
Municipios (Municipality)Cozumel
Largest citySan Miguel de Cozumel (pop. 77,236)
Presidente municipal (Municipal president)Juan Carlos González Hernández (PRI)
Demographics
Population100.000 (as of 2011)
Density113.07 /km2 (292.85 /sq mi)
Ethnic groupsMaya
Additional information
Official websiteGovernment website
Time zone UTC −6
DST: UTC −5
 
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Cozumel
Native name: Kùutsmil
Nickname: Cuzamil

Satellite image of Cozumel Island in 2001
Geography
LocationCaribbean Sea
Coordinates20°25′N 86°55′W / 20.417°N 86.917°W / 20.417; -86.917Coordinates: 20°25′N 86°55′W / 20.417°N 86.917°W / 20.417; -86.917
Total islands2
Area647.33 km2 (249.936 sq mi)
Highest point14
Country
Mexico
StateQuintana Roo
Municipios (Municipality)Cozumel
Largest citySan Miguel de Cozumel (pop. 77,236)
Presidente municipal (Municipal president)Juan Carlos González Hernández (PRI)
Demographics
Population100.000 (as of 2011)
Density113.07 /km2 (292.85 /sq mi)
Ethnic groupsMaya
Additional information
Official websiteGovernment website
Time zone UTC −6
DST: UTC −5

Cozumel (Yucatec Maya: Kùutsmil, English: Island of the Swallows) is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen, and close to the Yucatan Channel. Cozumel is one of the ten municipalities (municipios) of the state of Quintana Roo. Cozumel is a tourist destination for its balnearios, scuba diving, and snorkeling. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel.

It is also a stop for Caribbean cruises by cruise lines Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, Pullmantur and Royal Caribbean.[1]

Contents

Geography

The island is about 48 km (30 mi) long and 16 km (9.9 mi) wide, and is Mexico's largest Caribbean island.[citation needed] It is Mexico's third-largest island, following Tiburón Island and Isla Ángel de la Guarda.[citation needed] It lies some 10 km (6.2 mi) from the mainland, and 90 km (56 mi) south of Cancún.

The vast majority of the population of Cozumel lives in the town of San Miguel (pop. 77,236 in 2010),[2] which is on the island's 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).[3]

The land area is covered with an impenetrable jungle which has many endemic animal species. Cozumel island, including offshore islets, has a land area of 477.961 km2 (184.542 sq mi).

Geology

Cozumel is a flat island based on limestone, resulting in a karst topography. The highest natural point on the island is less than 15 m (49 ft) above sea level. The cenotes are deep water filled sinkholes formed by water percolating through the soft limestone soil during thousands of years. Cozumel's cenotes have very restricted access available only to qualified cave divers with appropriate registration. In the early 1990s, a group of cave explorers here discovered the 5th largest underwater cave in the world. Since the population reached 100,000 people, most of the cavern in town and neighborhood are used for rinse water disposal.

History

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.[4][5] There are a number of ruins on the island, most from the Post-Classic period. The largest Maya ruins on the island were near the downtown area and have now been destroyed, but not by the construction of the airport during WWII as some sources incorrectly state.[6] Today, the largest remaining ruins are at San Gervasio, located approximately at the center of the island.

Maya ruins of San Gervaiso, 1994

The first Spanish expedition to visit Cozumel was led by Juan de Grijalva in 1518; in 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 the expeditions’ experiences on other parts of 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. As many as 10,000 Maya lived on the island then, but in 1520, infected crew members of the Pánfilo Narváez expedition brought the smallpox contagion to the island and by 1570 only 186 men and 172 women were left alive on Cozumel. In the ensuing years Cozumel was often the target of attacks by pirates, and in1650, many of the islanders were forcebly relocated to the mainland town of Xcan Boloná to avoid the buccaneers’ predation. Later, in 1688, most of the rest of the island’s population, as well as many of the settlements along the Quintana Roo coast, were evacuated inland to towns such as Chemax. In 1848, refugees escaping the tumult of the Caste War of Yucatán settled on the island and in 1849 the town of San Miguel de Cozumel was officially recognized by the Mexican government.[7]

In 1861, American President Abraham Lincoln ordered his Secretary of State, William Henry Seward (who was later to purchase the Russian Territory of Alaska for the US in 1867), to meet with the Mexican charge d’affaires Matias Romero to explore the possibility of purchasing the island of Cozumel for the purpose of relocating freed American slaves offshore. The idea was summarily dismissed by Mexican President Benito Juarez, but in 1862 Lincoln did manage to establish a short-lived colony of ex-slaves on Île à Vache off the coast of Haiti.[8]

Late 20th century

Cozumel beach

In 1956, Mexican film director Rene Cardona shot the movie Un Mundo Nuevo under the waters of Cozumel at what is now known as Cardona Reef. In 1957, this film was translated into English and broadcast over American television as A New World. Cardona's movie is often confused with Jacques Yves Cousteau's 1956 documentary Monde du Silence, but Cousteau's film was shot entirely in the Eastern Hemisphere, and it was Cardona's film that brought the crystal clear waters of Cozumel to the attention of American divers. Cousteau did not visit the island for the first time until the late 1960s, years after the island's dive industry was well established. [9]

Although the original airport was a World War II relic and was able to handle jet aircraft and international flights, a much larger airport was built in the late 1970s. This resulted in much greater tourism to Cozumel.

Scuba diving is still one of Cozumel's primary attractions, mainly due to the healthy coral reef marine communities. These coral reefs are protected from the open ocean by the island's natural geography. In 1996, the government of Mexico also established the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, forbidding anyone from touching or removing any marine life within the park boundaries.[10] Despite the importance of healthy reefs to Cozumel's tourist trade, a deepwater pier was built in the 1990s for cruise ships to dock, causing damage to the reefs, and it is now a regular stop on cruises in the Caribbean.

21st century

2005 Hurricane Season

Cozumel seen through the eye of Hurricane Wilma

The island was struck directly by two Category 4 hurricanes during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. First to arrive was Hurricane Emily in July. Despite Emily being a powerful storm, it was the slower moving Hurricane Wilma that caused the most destruction when it hit the island in October. There was some damage to the underwater marine habitat. This included the coral reefs, which suffered particularly at the shallower dive sites, and the fish that inhabit the reefs.[11][12]

Industry

Tourism, diving and charter fishing comprise nearly all sources of income[citation needed]. There are more than 300 restaurants on the island[13] and many hotels, some of which run dive operations, have swimming pools, private docks, and multiple dining facilities.

Other water activities include para-sailing, kitesurfing, and a tourist submarine. There are also two dolphinariums.

At the cruise ship docks there are several square blocks of stores selling Cuban cigars, jewellery, t-shirts, tequila, and a large variety of inexpensive souvenirs. There are a very large number of restaurants in San Miguel that have a huge variety of different cuisines.

Carnival Glory and Carnival Legend docked at Puerta Maya pier

In down town Cozumel are several discothèques, bars, cinemas, stages and restaurants. The main plaza includes a fixed stage where Cozumelenians and tourists celebrate the Sunday evening with a dance into the night.

All food and manufactured supplies are shipped to the island. Water is provided by three different desalinization facilities located on the island.

Education

There are two universities on the island: the University of Quintana Roo and Partenon. In addition to teaching English as a degree, they offer five other career options including natural resources research, tourism and commercial systems.

Government

Cozumel is part of the State of Quintana Roo (Q-Roo). The Municipality of Cozumel consists of the island of Cozumel (with its offshore islets) and two pieces of adjacent mainland surrounded by the Municipality of Solidaridad. They are Calica and the Xel-Há Water Park. During the 2010 census there were 122 populated localities and 86 unpopulated localities enumerated.

Towns and villages

The largest localities (cities, towns, and villages) are:[2]

Name2010 Census population
San Miguel de Cozumel77,236
Las Fincas746
Kilómetro Cuatro y Medio211
La Estrella154
San Lorenzo134
La Esperanza115
Huerto Familiar104
Villa Cozumel75
Las Palmeras72
Iberostar52
Dos Arbolitos44
San Carlos34
Total Municipality79,535

Culture

Festival of El Cedral in Cozumel

To this day a historic festival is held in the small town of El Cedral, in the south of Cozumel Island at the end of April. This annual event is said to have been started over 150 years ago by Casimiro Cárdenas.

Cárdenas was one of a group that fled to the island from the village of Saban, on the mainland, after an attack during the War of the Castes. The attackers killed many other 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.[14]

Looking north from the top of the Punta Sur lighthouse

Natural history

Cozumel has a number of endemic species and subspecies of bird including:

Endemic dwarf mammals are found on the island:

The island also harbors three rodents that are larger than their mainland counterpart: Oryzomys couesi, Peromyscus leucopus, and critically endangered Reithrodontomys spectabilis, the latter of which is also endemic to the island.

Endemic marine life:

Other native wildlife includes:

References

  1. ^ "This is Cozumel". http://thisiscozumel.com/cruises/. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  2. ^ a b 2010 census tables: INEGI
  3. ^ "Land area of islands in Mexico: INEGI". http://mapserver.inegi.gob.mx/geografia/espanol/datosgeogra/extterri/frontera.cfm?c=920%20&i=e. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  4. ^ "Cozumel history". http://www.islacozumel.com.mx/eng/dest-history.asp. 
  5. ^ Paxton, Merideth. The cosmos of the Yucatec Maya: cycles and steps from the Madrid Codex. UNM Press, 2001, pg. 135.
  6. ^ [1] Retrieved 2012-06-29
  7. ^ Hajovsky, Ric The Yellow Guide to the Mayan Ruins of San Gervasio, Cozumel, Amazon Books, 2012, p. 8-10
  8. ^ EverythingCozumel.com/Cozumel-History.html Retrieved 2012-05-11
  9. ^ EverythingCozumel.com/Cozumel-History.html Retrieved 2012-05-10
  10. ^ Cozumel An Island Paradise - 'Vistas De Cozumel'
  11. ^ Species Richness and Community Structure of the Yucatan Marine Reserve Before and After 2005 Hurricane Season
  12. ^ Cozumel Reef Conditions Update – 2007
  13. ^ "restaurants in Cozumel". http://www.cozumelrestaurantguide.com. 
  14. ^ "This is Cozumel". http://thisiscozumel.com/content/view/239/42/. Retrieved 2009-11-01. 
  15. ^ K. McFadden, D. Vasco, A. Cuaron, D. Valenzuela and M. Gompper. 2009. Conservation and population assessment of the endangered dwarf carnivores from Cozumel Island. Biodiversity and Conservation 13:317–331
  16. ^ "This is Cozumel". http://thisiscozumel.com/content/view/1116/2/. Retrieved 2011-03-31. 
  17. ^ "This is Cozumel". http://thisiscozumel.com/content/view/1397/2/. Retrieved 2012-06-29. 
  18. ^ "This is Cozumel". http://thisiscozumel.com/content/view/973/2/. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  19. ^ "This is Cozumel". http://thisiscozumel.com/content/view/741/2/. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  20. ^ "This is Cozumel". http://thisiscozumel.com/content/view/1178/2/. Retrieved 2011-08-27. 

External links