Isla Mujeres is a small municipality located at the north of the State of Quintana Roo, the territory includes the following islands: Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy and Isla Blanca, but also it includes a large portion of mainland, with a total of 1,100 km2. In the Isla Mujeres territory both the island and the mainland have been found several mayan antiques as ceramics, utensils made from conch shells, the small mayan arqueological sites as "El Meco" and the Ixchell Mayan temple are from 200-300 AD. Isla Mujeres is also the location of sea battles between big colonial ships and pirate ships, so there are many shipwrecks to visit in the marine surroundings.
Boca Iglesia is situated in the extreme northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula, 6 kilometers south of Cabo Catoche is found the last vestiges of what was the village of Ekab which existed as a prosperous community until the middle of the 17th centure. The settlement disappeared as a result of constant attacks from Mayan rebels and pirates of French and English origin.
According to historians of the Spanish conquest, this was the place where the army of Franciso Herandez de Cordoba disembarked and became considered the official disdicoverer of theYucatan and Isla Mujeres, in the first days of March 1517. The natives of the place convinced the intruders to visit their homes, but after disembarking, the discoverers were ambushed and forced to retreat.
The following years of 1518 and 1519, two other expeditions captained by Juan de Grijalva and Hernan Cortes,
respectively, went by without visiting the place since their main interest was to find gold, rather than discovering land. However, the Spanish Crown, pressured by rivals France and England, allowed Holy Catholic church, in 1519, in a precipitatous move, to form a papal presence by instituting a bishop in the place where Hernandez de Cordoba disembarked .
And so, the Catholic Church, inheritors by divine commandment of all the lands discovered by its daring marines,
established its power over the territory, without having any knowledge of its vast surface and of the individuals that were inhabited the place. The rights and customs of the indegionous people were subordinated by decree of Catholicism. Julian Garces was designated as the bishop of the new church with the holy see of Ekab, today called Boca Iglesias, but the compassionate clergyman never took physical possession of his charge, finishing some years later as bishop of Tlaxcala, where the holy see was moved to, given the relative seclusion near Cabo Catoche. The order to build a church in Ekab was completed. The architecture is one of most medieval style, similar to styles used by in Spain in times of the crusades against pirates.
Their fences were made in the form of arrows. This can best be appreciated around the Convent, a building adjacent to the main church, recognized as a parish for the Indians. To build these Catholic structures, the pagan temples of the natives were demolished to provide sufficient material to start the construction.
Today, it is possible to see the impressive church belfry from the sea. A rocky structure that seems to challenge
centuries, the skies, and the predators that are always hunting the site for lost treasures.
The most relevant episode in the history of Ekab was the attack that happened in the village in 1571 when the French pirate Pierre Sanfroy whom with twenty other pirates took the village by surprise during the holy week of that year. Intent on extorting the villagers and offending the catholic religion, he used the altar as his bedroom and damaged fine ornaments on the walls of the building. Sanfroy was persued by the Yucatecan government until he was captured in Cozumel where most of his men died in combat. Sanfroy and 3 of his men were taken to the Holy Inquisition and subjected to a long a stifling judgement. Finally, they were condemned not for the damage caused to the village of Ekab, but for being rascals and being enemies of the Church.
During the subsequent centuries of colonial times, other settlements developed in Ekab. Known as Boxchen and Hon Hon, they were the last communities to occupy the place until and during the “War of the Castes” according to the historian Michel Antochiw.
A Brief History of EKAB.
Despite the disappearance of the ancient Mayas, by the 16th Century, Ekab was thickly populated again. The earliest recorded Spanish landings on the North American continent took place in Quintana Roo. In 1511, Gonzalo Guerrero and Jeronimo Aguilar were the sole survivors of a group of Spaniards who landed at Xcaret and were taken captive by natives. In 1513, Ponce de Leon came ashore west of Cabo Catoche, but he returned to Cuba without knowing where he had been.
The official discovery of the Yucatan Peninsula (and Mexico) is attributed to Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, who disembarked at Boca de Iglesia in 1517. This was then the site of Ekab, a principal town in the province of Ekab, which stretched as far south as Tulum. Fifteen natives were killed and fifteen Spanish soldiers injured. The Spanish took two prisoners.
When Cortés arrived in 1519, Aguilar became his interpreter, but Guerrero, who had married into a noble Maya family, refused to be rescued and later fought against the Spaniards. It has been suggested that Guerrero might have built the wall around Tulum as a defense against invasion. Although some historians have asserted that Tulum was a watch point toward the sea, the principal buildings and public spaces are oriented toward the West. You sometimes see it called the City of the Rising Sun, but it was more likely the City of the Setting Sun.
One of Cortés' soldiers, Bernal Diaz, later wrote that the city of Ekab was more populous than Seville. The Spaniards called it the Grand Cairo, he said. Other historical accounts mention warehouses filled with fine cotton clothing and spools of thread of a quality then unknown in Europe. Although the Mayan scriptures were lost, many Aztec tax records have survived. They show an abundance of goods. Not until after World War II, did Mexican food and cotton production surpass these levels.
During the years following the Conquest, most of the Mayas, who at one time numbered in the millions, died of disease and starvation. After various expeditions, the Montejo family defeated the Mayas in 1541 and founded the city of Mérida. One portion of Quintana Roo held out until 1545 at Bacalar, near Chetumal, now the state capital. Another group fled to Guatemala, where they were finally subdued in the 17th Century.
After the early religious and military excesses, life in Yucatan stabilized under Spanish and mestizo rule. The batabes, leaders elected by consensus from a more-or-less hereditary ruling class, were recognized as nobles and were exempted from the taxes and work-services which the commoners were obligated to provide.
The position was made hereditary, but a bad batab could be removed by the community. The relatively fluid and more-or-less democratic traditional style of Mayan government, with its minimal concepts of private property, was replaced by proto-capitalist European authoritarian rule.
Following Mexican Independence, Yucatan, which then included the entire peninsula, declared itself a separate country in 1821. There were repeated armed conflicts between centralists and federalists. The rebels were often supplied by the British, and they enrolled the Mayas in their cause by promising to restore their lands and privileges.
Instead, the Mayas were subjected to even heavier abuses. The batabes were forced to legalize land grabs by the white and mestizo Yucatecans. The Mayan deeds that did exist were called into court for examination. Like the scriptures, they disappeared.
Most of Isla Mujeres territory remains still unexplored...
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