Cozumel History

Ancient Mayan Legends

Cozumel History: Ancient Mayan Legends

Cozumel awaits with an exciting and interesting history. It dates back to the time of the ancient Maya, whose culture on Cozumel came to an end with the arrival of the Spaniards. These Maya left many traces of their existence.
The best books: Mayan History
Chichen Itza: History of the Maya

History of the Maya

A captivating guide to Mayan civilization, culture, and mythology

Mesoamerican History Maya

Mesoamerican History

A captivating guide to four historic civilizations

The growth and destruction of the Maya civilization is an unforgettable part of the Cozumel history. The first traces of the Maya probably date back to 100 BC.

Evidence of the existence of the Maya on Cozumel has been found in more than 34 places. Few have been fully excavated and opened to the public. The largest of them is in the middle of the island called San Gervasio.

The Maya of Cozumel: Pre-Colombian time

Mayan ruins San Gervasio on Cozumel

Mayan ruins San Gervasio on Cozumel

Historiker gehen von drei Migrationswellen auf Cozumel aus. Die Menschen, die um 100 vor Christus ankamen, waren karibische Halbnomaden sowie Jäger und Fischer. 

Die zweite Migrationswelle waren Maya aus Guatemala und kamen um 400 nach Christus. Sie waren kulturell entwickelter, sesshaft und kannten die Kunst der Architektur.

Die dritte und für die Geschichte von Cozumel wichtigste Migrationswelle erreichte Cozumel um 800 nach Christus von Tabasco und Campeche.

Cozumel: Cultural Excursions
Cozumel History: Mayan Ruins

Mayan Ruins and Beach

Cozumel Excursion

Cozumel History: Punta Sur

Mangrooves and Beach

Cozumel Excursion

Sie brachten den für Cozumel wichtigen Kult der Göttin Ix Chel mit, der Göttin des Mondes und der Fruchtbarkeit. Sie ist die zweit-wichtigste Göttin der zahlreichen Maya-Gottheiten und die Ehefrau des Sonnengottes Itzamna.

In der darauffolgenden Episode erhofften sich viele Mayafrauen den Segen von Ix Chel. Deswegen pilgerten sie nach Cozumel, um Fruchtbarkeit zu erbitten. Typischerweise machten sie sich vor ihrer Hochzeit zu dieser Pilgerreise auf. Auf Cozumel fanden deswegen viele Hochzeiten von Pilgern statt.

Achtung: Die Göttin Ix Chel hat bis heute nichts von ihrem Einfluss verloren!!!!!!! Man sagt, dass es der Geschichte von Cozumel und vor allem der Maya Göttin Ix Chel zu verdanken sei, dass auf Cozumel so viele Kinder zur Welt kommen.

Maya crossing to Cozumel in canoes

Mayan goddess Ix Chel on Cozumel

Mayan goddess Ix Chel in Cozumel

Für die Maya war die Reise nach Cozumel gefährlich. Denn zwischen dem Festland und Cozumel gibt es sehr starke Strömungen. Die Maya nutzten Kanus und überkreuzten so die Meeresstraße.

Heute wird diese Überfahrt als heiliges Element der Maya Kultur gefeiert. Einmal jährlich überqueren Pilger in Kanus die Yukatan-Meerenge, um die Göttin Ix Chel anzubeten und Opfergaben zu überbringen.

Die kulturelle Blüte von Cozumel ist eng mit der von Chichen Itza verknüpft, also zwischen 800 n.Chr. – 1.200 n.Chr. Cozumel entwickelte sich zu einem wichtigen Handelsplatz. Da viele Pilger hier ankamen, nutzten sie die Gelegenheit, Güter einzutauschen. In dieser Zeit war Chichen Itza die Hauptstadt von Cozumel.

Archäologen haben viele Anhaltspunkte für eine enge Verknüpfung zwischen Chichen Itza und Cozumel gefunden. Unter anderem Keramik und ähnliche Architekturelemente. Nach dem Untergang von Chichen Itza um 1.200 nach Christus blieb Cozumel ein wichtiges Zentrum für die Maya. Deren Bedeutung endete erst mit der Ankunft der Spanier.

The Maya came to Cozumel from the mainland by canoe, this tradition is still alive today.

Mayan Ruins on Cozumel

History of Cozumel San Gervasio

Mayan ruins San Gervasio in Cozumel

The most famous ruins on Cozumel are located in the middle of the jungle, the place is called San Gervasio. These Mayan ruins of Cozumel are well worth a visit. Here you can see the park and get interesting insights into the history of Cozumel and the culture of the Maya. However, the interested visitor will not find any large pyramids or ceremonial centers here. Rather, homes and complexes that testify the history of Cozumel. The Maya on Cozumel were dedicated to fishing and naufregating, while mainland Maya were architectural experts.

Specially trained guides take you on a journey back to the ancient world of tha Maya in San Gervasio. Most of them are true Mayan descenders. They like to tell you some anecdotes about the island of Cozumel. And those who like walking, can go until the temple of the goddess Ix Chel, where once the Mayan women asked for fertility.

The most famous Mayan ruins on Cozumel are in the middle of the jungle near San Gervasio.

Cozumel history: The arrival of the Spaniards in Cozumel

Cozumel history: The arrival of the Spaniards

Symbol of the arrival of the Spaniards

The first Spaniards reached the island of Cozumel in 1518. John de Grijalva came from Cuba to Cozumel with peaceful intentions. His ship docked on Cozumel on May 3, 1518, and three days later the first Holy Mass on Latin American soil took place on Cozumel. People of Cozumel are particularly proud of this, as more than 90% of the population is Catholic. In the year 2018, the 500th anniversary of the two cultures was celebrated. A new church was built to commemorate the first Holy Mass on Cozumel.
A year later, in 1519, the infamous Hernan Cortes came to Cozumel. He came on behalf of the Spanish crown to subjugate “the new Spain,” as Mexico was called. Cortes convinced the chief of the Maya to submit peacefully and accept the Christian god. Hernan Cortes destroyed many Mayan temples and religious sculptures during his stay on Cozumel.

When the Spaniards arrived on Cozumel, about 20,000 Maya lived on the island. Unfortunately, a member of the crew of Cortes had the smallpox, a disease that had not existed in America so far. Only a few hundred survived the epidemic. In the middle of the 16th century, the island of Cozumel was often attacked by pirates and it became increasingly dangerous to live on a Caribbean island. Therefore, the surviving inhabitants moved to the mainland.

The first Spaniards came to Cozumel in 1518. Many Mayan people died or moved to the mainland due to the smallpox outbreak.

Cozumel history: The era of pirates

Cozumel remained uninhabited for the next two centuries, except for pirates, who used Cozumel as the basis for their operations. The more famous included Henry Morgan and Jean Laffite. The Spanish crown of the Welsian Sir Henry Morgan was particularly frightening. Morgan found the island of Cozumel ideal for its cenotes and caves, and the remains of the Maya sites provided excellent hiding places. From here he probably planned some attacks on Central America and the Caribbean and used Cozumel as an ideal retreat.

In 1847 the caste war broke out on the Yucatan Peninsula. Creole in particular (as the middle-class and upper-class Spaniards in Mexico are called) were mercilessly persecuted.

History of Cozumel: The repopulation

El Cedral: First settlement on Cozumel history

El Cedral: First settlement in Cozumel

For the next two centuries, Cozumel history states that the island remained uninhabited, with the exception of pirates who used Cozumel as a base for their operations. Among the most famous, were Henry Morgan and Jean Laffite. The Spanish crown was especially afraid of the Welsh Sir Henry Morgan. Morgan found the island of Cozumel ideal, for its cenotes and the remains of the Mayan sites provided excellent hiding places. He planned some attacks on Central America and the Caribbean from here and used Cozumel as an ideal retreat.

In 1847, the Caste war started on the Yucatan peninsula. Creoles (Spaniards of the middle and upper classes) particularly, were pursued mercilessly.

On the mainland, a man named Casimiro Cardenas sought refuge in a church, knowing that the Maya were not far away. The church, chosen as a shelter, was of little help against the aggressive Maya. Many from the village died. Cardenas, badly wounded, was one of the survivors, believing that a carved crucifix had protected him. Therefore, he swore that he would organize a festival in honor of God once a year. Casimiro and 21 other families reached the island of Cozumel in 1848 as refugees and founded the village El Cedral. Casimiro kept his promise and held a celebration of the Holy Cross at the end of April. Today, the El Cedral feast is Cozumel’s main festivity and many locals celebrate this old tradition.

The first cruise lines on Cozumel landed in the 70s. At that time, much smaller and more irregular in their capacity, they brought about 100 guests to the island – once a month. In the 70s, about 15,000 people lived on Cozumel. Today, this number has risen to nearly 100,000.

In 1848, the first survivors of the caste war arrived on Cozumel. They were looking for a new place to stay.


  • The first Maya came to Cozumel as early as 100 BC.
  • The heyday of Cozumel began 800 AD – 1200 AD under the capital Chichen Itza.
  • The first Spaniards landed on Cozumel in 1518 and spread smallpox. Many Mayan people died of it.
  • Cozumel was uninhabited until the middle of the 19th century.
  • Cozumel was repopulated by refugees from the Caste War


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Hello, my name is Birgit and I write about interesting topics around vacations in Mexico and traveling on the Yucatan peninsula. I would love to hear from you and I am always happy to receive ideas and recommendations for new articles.

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