The Fertility Goddess and Cozumel

The Maya lived on the island they called Tantun Cuzamil (Flat Rock Place of the Swallows) for one thousand years before the Spanish arrived in 1518. The island was a center of trade for salt, honey and fish with the mainland tribes. Trade routes were established all the way to present day Honduras. Bells made in Honduras were found on an island sacred site.

An important Maya temple of fertility was built on Cozumel around the year 1000 to 1200. The Maya name of the place is lost to time. The Spanish call it San Gervasio, Gervasio after the person who owned the land before the government made it an official historical site. He was not a saint, in fact he dynamited several structures convinced he’d find gold beneath them. However, no gold was found.

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Site Map for San Gervasio

We were fortunate enough to follow a knowledgeable guide through the San Gervasio ruins who was trilingual in Maya, Spanish and English. His name was Juan. Guide services cost $20 for over an hour of information. We felt that was very reasonable considering how much Juan knew about Cozumel history.

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Juan, our guide, with painting of the fertility goddess Ixchel  Photo credit: Rebecca Cuningham

The archeological descriptions of the site were trilingual as he was.

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San Gervasio History in Spanish, Maya and English  Photo credit: Rebecca Cuningham

A structure with large columns stands on one side of the ritual plaza. This was used as a community temple and meeting place for elders. The columns were once painted red and blue. The Spanish call this building Los Murales. This building was built later between the years 1200 and 1600. The wooden and thatched roof cover is to protect it from the tropical rains and sun.

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The building where the honeymooners would stay overnight after rituals celebrating Ixchel and a purification ceremony.

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A religious ceremony platform stands in the center of the plaza. This is one of the earliest structures at the site, created between the year 1000 and 1200. The second set of stairs and the enlargement of the platform occurred after 1200.

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Juan pointed out the positioning of the plaza according to the moonrise. The Maya built special paths to the Ixchel site called sacbes. The roads were leveled and white seashells covered them to make them glow in the dark by the light of the moon. I was impressed at the simple technology that must have produced a magical effect. Imagine glowing paths without electricity!

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White seashells used to make the sacbe paths glow  Photo credit: Rebecca Cuningham

A corn grinder is evidence of the feasting that accompanied the fertility rituals. The Maya ground corn to make tortillas.

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Metate or Metlatl Corn Grinding Stone  Photo credit: Rebecca Cuningham

Maya culture, architecture and technology never cease to impress me. I’d recommend the San Gervasio site to any Cozumel visitor who has a morning to spare.

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. Olé! –Rebecca

 

 

 

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