Isla Mujeres is the beauty mark of the lower lip of the Yucatan in the Gulf of Mexico. I’d wanted to go to the Women’s Island ever since I’d first heard about it—over 30 years ago. I just liked the sound of it. But, I’d never really wanted to go to Cancun. And you can’t really have one without the other. Finally, I had my chance to go to the island during a one-week vacation in Playa Mujeres, just across the water, near Cancun. We took the 15-minute ferry ride first thing in the morning and rented a golf cart ($35 USD), a perfect way to catch a breeze and get around the small island.
We drove all the way to the south end to see the lighthouse and what’s left of the Temple Ixchel. We strolled through the Punta Sur Sculpture Garden to get to the most easterly point. The Sebastian Foundation contracted 23 artists from Mexico and the world in 2001 to erect modern sculptures on the landscape. The contemporary shapes & bright hues in the natural environment apparently attempt to interpret Mayan civilization but are a huge contrast to the subdued rock formations of the ancient Mayan “lighthouse” where the morning sun first kisses Mexico.
Not being water people, we skipped the Garrafón Reef Park & MUSA— the largest underwater museum on the planet. It looked spectacular judging from the photos. In order to build a protective reef in 2009, 500 cement-like statues were erected in order to attract coral life. The installations depict situations from everyday life. A work in progress, it opened to the public in late 2010. It’s considered a living reef that erodes naturally with the elements just like the Mayan ruins. I think you can see parts of it through plexiglass without getting wet. I would highly recommend it if you like snorkelling and you’re in the Cancun area. I’m sorry I missed it; it’s one of those times I wished I’d had an affinity for water.
Back in el Centro—the downtown area of the island, I popped into the original cemetery. You can only stuff so many dead bodies into the ground of a small island. There were tombs on top of tombs and the whole thing was a really big interesting mess. The inhabitants have had to build another, much larger cemetery halfway up the island. It’s in better shape. And, it’s pretty close to the dump—an unfortunate sight amongst the upper-class homes. The island is definitely running out of room for what needs to be laid to rest.
Walking through the streets of the core, I came across the Feminia Sube project. Ixchel – was the Goddess of the Moon, Wife of the Sun, and Fertility Goddess with healing powers. That’s a lot of responsibility. Women still come to the island to pray to her to help improve their child-bearing chances and return to express gratitude for subsequent success. There is an Art project with colourful mosaics in process to honour this Goddess.
Best to go to the island early in the day if you want to easily acquire a golf cart. By afternoon, the streets are overrun with tourists, filling souvenier shops and restaurant patios. The north beach is right downtown so there’s plenty to do even if you don’t get a cart. It’s a nice day trip from Cancun.