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Punta Sur is the southern-most point on Isla Mujeres and the eastern-most point in the entire country of Mexico. It is where tourists today go to climb the lighthouse for a view of Cancun’s hotel zone or simply relax on the warm rocks by the water. But what most don’t realize is that Punta Sur and Isla Mujeres in themselves have long, extensive and fascinating histories.
Way before Mexico’s fight for independence began; Isla Mujeres was an island of transition. It began when the Spanish arrived and the Maya inhabitants of the island fled the to seek refuge deeper in the mainland. But the Spanish didn’t stay for too long. They had bigger conquests to carry out therefore, allowing the island to become a resting port for ships travelling to Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico from the region that we know today as Honduras. Post Spanish inquisition, the island became a safe haven for the suppressed indigenous that fled the enslavement of Spanish haciendas. With its constant evolution, Isla Mujeres grew to be an island inhabited by an extraordinarily-eclectic group of people, a group that consisted of the indigenous, foreign-ship captains and sometimes pirates.
Lawless pirates, ship captains and indigenous refugees sound like a mismatched group of people and it probably was but overtime, the island eventually settled into tranquility with a population that lived peacefully amongst each other and thrived off the island’s fishing and forestry industry. It was this population that began the Isla Mujeres New Years tradition on Punta Sur. Because Punta Sur is literally where Mexico awakens (i.e. the portion of Mexico that receives the first rays of sun light), the people of Isla Mujeres would celebrate by gathering on the island’s southern-most point to await the sunrise, bringing in the New Year and ridding themselves of the past. Some say this tradition began well before the 1800s when reaming awake all night was necessary to keep watch of the horizon for any incoming invasions.
Today, travelers that visit Isla Mujeres can stand in the same point that thousands did before them at ‘Punta de Amancer’, or in English, ‘The point of sunrise.’ and imagine what life was like on the island over 2,000 years ago when the Mayas roamed the island or 200 years ago when the New Years tradition began. If only the island could speak… Oh, the stories it could tell.
Isla Mujeres Facts:
1) The original Mayan ruin that was lost at sea contained engraved messages in its walls from pirates and ship captains to make their presence and domination known during the island’s earliest of days.
2) The Spanish and subsequent cultures used Punta Sur as an observation point and the Mayas used it to study the cosmos.
3) Jose Martí, a Cuban figure and an important figure in Latin American literature, visited the island during his country’s bid for independence from the Spanish.
About the Author
Kristin McCollum is a travel writer and photographer that has spent the past year traveling and working throughout Europe and Mexico. After living in the Yucatan Peninsula, she found inspiration in every person she met and in the natural beauty which surrounded her.