Isla Mujeres was called Ekab in Mayan times. There are remains of a Mayan Temple on the South point of the island where the Goddess Ixchel, Goddess of fertility, reason, medicine, happiness and the moon, resided. The Temple also served as a lighthouse by using torches through the holes in the walls. They say it could actually be seen at sea.
In 1517, three ships sailed from Cuba to capture slaves for the mines and thus the island became known as Isla Mujures because of the idols they found there. The Goddess, her daughter and daughter in law…so the story goes.
The island was only visited by pirates and fisherman and after the Independence of Mexico, a small village began in what is now downtown Isla Mujeres. During the wars many Mayans took refuge on Cozumel, Holbox and Isla Mujeres. Mayan fisherman found the waters around the island to be a fisherman’s paradise and the village slowly grew.
But my story is about The Legend of Mundaca the Pirate.
Another slaver, Fermin Mundaca was born in October 1825. He was born in Spain and had dreams of making a fortune in the new world. He arrived on the shores of Isla in 1858 and some say he acquired his wealth selling Mayan slaves.
Mundaca took over 40% of the island to build his home. He called it “Vista Alegre” meaning, Happy View. We took a day and went into the complex where we saw areas for livestock, birds, vegetables gardens, fruit orchards and exotic plants that were brought from all over the world. It is said that a special garden called “The Rose of the Winds” was constructed which served as a sundial telling the time of the day by its shadows.
So we have a wealthy man and his large Hacienda but noone to share it with until 1862 when Martiniana (Prisca) Gomez Pantoja was born. She was one of five sisters and very beautiful. many men fell in love with her including Mundaca. He built large arches above the gates that lead into his Hacienda and deicated them to herere dedicated to her, in hopes his wealth and power would win the local beauty 37 years younger than himself. It didn’t work of course and she married a man closer to her own age. Fermin Mundaca slowly went insane and died, alone in Spain. His empty tomb still awaits him in the Isla Mujeres cemetery. Carved by his own hands are the skull and cross bones, in memory of his pirating days and the words meant for his love, “As you are, I was. As I am, you will be”.