The Mayan civilization once ruled the Yucatan, spread out over a territory that stretched from Chiapas in Mexico, across the peninsula as far south as Honduras. The Mayan Ruins of San Gervasio – on the island of Cozumel – are the largest of the remaining temples and structures on the island from this once great civilization. The Mayans had inhabited the island of Cozumel as early as the 1st century, and it was an important pilgrimage destination for women desiring fertility in order to appease the Moon Goddess Ix Chel.
There were several permanent settlements on the island, mostly from the post-classic period, and even after the Mayan decline, there were still 10,000 people living here when the Spanish first arrived in 1518. The city of San Miguel just celebrated its 500th birthday, and the town displaced and destroyed the largest of the remnants from the Mayans, which is where most of the current population live today. The largest remaining structures can be found at the archeological site of San Gervasio, which was an important pilgrimage site.
When the Spanish first arrived in 1518 and 1519, they brought along smallpox, and the population on the island was decimated. By 1570, there were only 186 men and 172 women left of the original population. It was a popular place to be raided by pirates of the Caribbean, and it wasn’t until 1849 that the current population began to grow as many refugees from the mainland moved to the island. It was around this time that the temples of San Gervasio were destroyed with dynamite, just in case there was gold inside.
Only a quarter of San Gervasio has been excavated, so there is only a small portion of this site which can be visited. If you’re visiting here expecting to see grand pyramids such as those found at Chichen Itza, you will be disappointed. We hired a guide for our visit, and he told us much of the specific history of this site, and pointed out some interesting symmetry and numerology found at the ruins.
This particular location wasn’t a place where the locals lived, but instead was a temple complex where people from across the Yucatan would come to pay homage to Moon Goddess Ix Chel, who was the goddess of fertility amongst other things. Most Mayans would either send offerings or travel here themselves once in their lifetime, making the crossing from Tulum to Cozumel.
There are many other smaller temples and important sites on Cozumel, some of which we have explored as well, including El Caracol at Punta Sur and at El Cedral. The rest of them are located on the difficult to visit northern side of the island in the jungle or near the shores, which are difficult to reach unless you take a boat tour. We have wanted to visit the north side of the island for some time, so we will try to visited them all before 2019 is finished.
The history of the Mayan Civilization is quite fascinating, and there are many ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula that we still want to see, including the two at the top of our bucket list right now, Uxmal and Calakmul. We will get to them eventually. As for now, please enjoy some of our favourite pictures from the Mayan Ruins of San Gervasio on Cozumel.