lifestyle, travel This is Cozumel

Cozumel enjoyed live pop concerts, dances, processions, church services, symphony orchestras, ancient sports games, photo exhibitions and more, earlier this month, to mark an important 500 year island anniversary. But what happened in Cozumel 500 years ago to merit such celebrations?

The clue is in the official title of the program "500 Years: A Meeting of Two Cultures", which refers to the first Spanish explorers landing on Cozumel in May 1518, led by the conquistador Juan de Grijalva.

Grijalva and his crew had been living for years in Cuba and the expedition was organized by the governor there. They sailed directly to Cozumel, led to the island by a Maya who had previously been captured by the Spanish in Yucatan and taken back to Cuba.

This means May 2018 marks the 500th anniversary of the Spanish and Mayan cultures meeting on Cozumel, which is why the celebrations have been held by the local municipal government.

The local Catholic church also says the first mass in Mexico was held in Cozumel shortly after the Spanish landed, near to Playa Casitas downtown, on May 6, 1518. Local historian, Ric Hajovsky, has suggested there may have been earlier masses held in Mexico in his book, The True History of Cozumel, but it seems the May 2018 mass in Cozumel is the first documented example.

To mark the significance in Mexican religious history, a new chapel called Santa Cruz de Cuzamil is being constructed on the site where local legend says the mass was said and is fast becoming a new attraction for visitors to the island, but according to early Spanish documents, the real site was farther inland and farther south than Playa Casitas.

Other 500th anniversary highlights included a live open air performance by internationally acclaimed singer, Lila Downs; concerts by the Cozumel Symphony Orchestra and the Youth Symphony Orchestra from La Unión, Colombia; Meso-American ball games; international book launches and documentary film premières.

Perhaps most importantly of all, and as outgoing municipal president, Perla Tun, highlighted, the events were a celebration of the mixed cultures and races that live peacefully on the island today. In an increasingly divided world, Cozumel can be very proud of this indeed.

Visit our Tourist Information section for more Cozumel Events.

Photos 1, 2, 3 and 5, courtesy of Cozumel Municipal Government.