Kinkajou

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The kinkajou (Potos flavus) is a mammal of the family Procyonidae related to olingos, coatis, raccoons, ringtails, and cacomistles.  It is the only member of the genus Potos.   Kinkajous may be mistaken for ferrets or monkeys, but are not closely related.   Native to Central America and South America, this arboreal mammal is not an endangered species in Yucatan, though it is seldom seen by people because of its strict nocturnal habits.   However, they are hunted for the pet trade, for their fur, and for their meat.  They may live up to 40 years in captivity. ....CONTINUE READING

The First Airmail Flight to Cozumel in 1929

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The first airplane to fly Pan American Airways’ FAM 5 foreign airmail route from Miami Florida to the Canal Zone in Panama was a Sikorsky S-38A piloted by Charles A. Lindbergh on February 4 through the 6, 1929.  The flight was in reality a recon trip, but it also carried the first mail to be flown on this route. The route was Miami, Havana, Cozumel, Belize, Tela Honduras, San Salvador El Salvador, San Lorenzo Honduras, Managua Nicaragua, Punta Arenas Jose Costa Rica, and the Canal Zone. ....CONTINUE READING

The Discourse of Cortes

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The Monument to a Make-believe Speech

There is a concrete monument set on the ironshore on the beach on the Barbachano property that was once Hotel Cozumel Caribe (now Buccanos Beach Club) and the beach at Hotel Playa Azul.   The text on the monument is the reputed “Discourse of Cortes,” the speech Hernan Cortes was supposed to have given to his men while they were on Cozumel in 1519.   “The Discourse of Cortes” first appeared in Historia de la conquista de Mexico written by Antonio de Solís in 1684, 165 years after the fact.   It is this fabricated text of Solís that appears on the monument. ....CONTINUE READING

Maya Sea-trade Routes

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The Maya culture that built San Gervasio and other Post-classic sites on Cozumel were sea-traders who plied their wares far and wide.   The first recorded mention of their trade routes was in Bartolome de Las Casas’ abstract of the log of Cristóbal Colón (known by Americans as Christopher Columbus), where the discoverer recounted the events of his first voyage to the New World.   In Las Casas’ version of the logbook, it is stated that Colon came across a block of beeswax on the island of Cuba.   At the time of the European discovery of America, the common honeybee (a native of Europe) was unknown in the Yucatan and the only wax-producing bees were the Yucatan sting-less bees (Meliponini beecheii and M. Yucatanica).   Since these bees were kept by beekeepers only in Yucatan, it seems pretty clear someone over here was shipping beeswax to Cuba. ....CONTINUE READING

Dr. Adolfo Rosado Salas Monument

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The concrete plinth with the bust atop at the intersection of Calle Adolfo Rosado Salas and Avenida Rafael E. Melgar is commemorates a well-loved doctor who moved to the island in 1942.   He was renowned for his dedication and often provided his services free.   An anecdote told by our island’s historian relates how the night before he died in his sleep the doctor entered the cantina owned by Don José Cruz Bonastre and bought a round of drinks for all present, saying “friends, I want you to accompany me in a toast, for tomorrow I will be buried in the cemetery.”   And, true to his word, he was dead the next morning.   After he was buried, an arrow was placed on his grave marker pointing towards heaven and bearing the word “consultas” (consultations). ....CONTINUE READING

Cozumel Thrasher

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In 1885, Robert Ridgeway described the Cozumel Thrasher (Harporhynchus guttatus) for the first time and then in 1886 published his findings in Description of some new bird species from Cozumel Island, Yucatan in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 3:2-24.   Locally, the bird is known as el Cuitlacoche de Cozumel.   The bird is very similar to the Long-billed Thrasher (H. longirostris) found on the Yucatan Peninsula but differs from this species genetically and is endemic to the island. ....CONTINUE READING

Cedral

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It has been written in some websites that Casimero Cardenas founded Cedral.   Not true.   Cedral was a center of population on Cozumel ever since prehispanic times.   During the Colonial period, there were more people living in Cedral than there were in Xamancab (today’s San Miguel).   Later, woodcutters from Belize had dwellings there.   Casimiro, on the other hand, first settled in San Miguel.   He and his wife show up on the 1850 census of the town of San Miguel, a census which did not include residents of Cedral or the outlying ranchos.   Casimiro didn’t move out to Cedral until after 1850. ....CONTINUE READING

Cozumel Harvest Mouse

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The Cozumel Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys spectabilis) is a species of small rodent (adult weight around 20 grams) in the family Cricetidae and is endemic to Cozumel.   It is semi-arboreal and lives in dense secondary forest and forest edge habitats.   Its population is small, fluctuating, and patchily distributed.   The species is threatened by predation from feral cats and dogs and introduced boa constrictors, by competition with introduced non-native rats and mice, and by habitat disturbances caused by hurricanes and floods.  The rodent is now critically endangered. ....CONTINUE READING

The Cozumel Fox

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The Cozumel Fox (Urocyon sp. nov.) is a species of fox which is close to extinction or already extinct.   The last recorded sighting was 2001.   It is (or was until recently) endemic to Cozumel.   The Cozumel Fox, which has not been scientifically described to date, is known to be a dwarf form similar to the Island Fox but slightly larger, being up to three-quarters the size of the Gray Fox.   It had been isolated on the island for 5,000 to 13,000 years. ....CONTINUE READING

The Statue of San Miguel Arcangel

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Mistakes, Misstatements, and Misunderstandings;
The Mythologies Surrounding San Miguel

There have been many garbled and fictitious stories published about the statue of the Archangel Michael in the church at Juarez and 5 Avenue in downtown San Miguel, Cozumel over the years.   Most of the stories have at least a few of the following points in common:

1. The statue is believed to be about 500 years old.
2. It was found by workers digging in a field north of town (sometimes it is construction workers) over 100 years ago.
3. It was originally brought to Cozumel by Juan de Grijalva in 1518.
4. Since the find came on Sept. 29, the saint’s feast day, they decided to name Cozumel’s main urban area in honor of the saint.
5. Juan de Grijalva introduced Christianity to the island and placed the statue in a Catholic Temple that was located in the town’s central plaza.
6. The statue was later sent to Merida for restoration, but the restorers kept the original and sent a new one in its place.  ....CONTINUE READING

Cozumel Pygmy Racoon

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Clinton Hart Merriam first described the Cozumel raccoon as morphologically distinctive from its mainland relative, the common raccoon subspecies Procyon lotor hernandezii, in 1901.   Since then, other scientists have generally agreed with Merriam’s assessment, especially Kristofer Helgen and Don E. Wilson, who have dismissed this classification for the other four island raccoons in their studies in 2003 and 2005.  Therefore, the Cozumel raccoon was listed as the only distinct species of the genus Procyon besides the common raccoon and the crab-eating raccoon in the third edition of Mammal Species of the World.   An archaeological study showed that Maya from Cozumel used raccoons of reduced stature, which suggests that the size reduction of this raccoon is not a recent phenomenon. ....CONTINUE READING

The Boa Constrictors of Cozumel

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Prior to 1971, Cozumel was an island free of boa constrictors.   The island did have a few other non-venomous snakes, such as the Green Vine Snake (Oxybelis fulgidus) and the False Fer-de-lance (Xenodon rabdocephalus), as well as “slightly” venomous snakes, like the rear-fanged Cat Eye snake (Leptodeira annulata).   These snakes all fed on lizards, frogs, and toads, but the island was free of any arboreal snakes that preyed on birds.   Consequently, the island was a haven for the Yucatan Amazon parrot (Amazona xantholora), also known as the Yellow-lored Amazon, Yucatan Parrot, or Yellow-lored Parrot.   That all began to change in 1971. ....CONTINUE READING

How Cozumel’s Tourism Industry Began

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During his exile in 1869, Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Ana (the Mexican general who defeated the Texians at the Alamo) convinced Thomas Adams of New York to try to develop a product utilizing chicle, the gum of the sapodilla tree (Manilkara zapota), a tree found only in Yucatan, Guatemala, and Belize.   After several failed attempts to make toys, masks, and rain-boots out of the material, Adams finally added flavoring to it and came up with chicle-based chewing gum.   Chewing gum had been around for a few years already in the US, but up until then it had been based on Spruce gum and had never really caught on.   This new concoction did. ....CONTINUE READING

The Clock Tower

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In 1908, a committee of Cozumel islanders got together and formed the “Centenary Celebration Steering Committee,” to plan for the upcoming Centennial celebration of the 1810 war of independence.   The motion of building a commemorative clock tower was passed, and subsequently, plans were drawn up for the construction of the tower. ....CONTINUE READING

Gachupín

La palabra “gachupín” esta derivada del apellido Cachopín, una familia de alta clase en Laredo, Cantabria, España.   Por ejemplo, en la  obra La Diana, por Jorge de Montemayor de1559 hay algunas líneas que dicen:

El apellido fue popularizado como estereotipo de un personaje literario o uno de los hidalgos, una clase social relativamente alta caricaturizada como prepotente. ....CONTINUE READING

Lee Harvey Oswald in Cozumel?

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After President John F. Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas, the Warren Commission was set up to investigate the roles of Lee Harvey Oswald and other supposed participants in the assassination.   The evidence the commission collected was later made public in a huge bound report which included photo copies of pertinent documents the FBI and the commission had gathered.   One such piece of evidence was exhibit #2949, a FBI informant’s report dated January 13, 1964, in which an informant detailed Lee Harvey Oswald’s alleged trips to Cozumel on December 1962 and again on February 1963.   Both times Oswald was reported to have stayed at the Hotel Playa, which is now the Museo de Cozumel.   An enigmatic American named “Albert” was also supposedly involved in the meet in Cozumel and was alleged to have stayed at the Hotel Isleño, where Cinco Soles now stands. ....CONTINUE READING

Sam Houston wanted Cozumel

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In May, 1842, the President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston, had an odd conversation with the French chargé d’affaires Alphonse Dubois de Saligny, which Saligny dutifully recorded in his dispatch to Paris.   Houston had been trying on behalf of the Texian government to get a loan of several million dollars from France, but so far he had been unable to get his hands on the funds.   During a visit Saligny made to see the President Houston at the port of Galveston, Houston had said to the Frenchman “France has need of new colonies.   Why does she not look for some close to us?   It would be very easy to find something among the Mexican possessions to suit her taste.”   Saligny reported to his superiors that he had told President Houston that France had “renounced all idea of aggrandizement or conquest, and he did not see what right, under what pretext, or by what means she could seize some part of Mexican territory.”   To which President Houston was supposed to have replied “If that is all that is troubling you, nothing would be easier to arrange.   We would take care of that.   If Texas were to seize a portion of Mexican territory by force of arms, and, after holding it for a time, then chose to cede it to France, I, for my part do not see who could stand in the way.”   Houston was unable to complete the conversation due to the departure of the steamer he was boarding in Galveston, and didn’t have time to reveal that the “portion of Mexican territory” that could be seized by Texas and ceded to France was none other than the island of Cozumel.  It wasn’t until later, in February 1843, during a coach ride with Texas Secretary of War George Washington Hockley, that Saligny was told by the Secretary the island of Cozumel was the looming target of a Texas land grab. ....CONTINUE READING

Juan Bautista Vega

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The statue of the man with a machete that stands at the intersection of Avenida Juarez and Calle Avenida 120 is Juan Bautista Vega.

In the summer of 1897, a man reported to be a treasure hunter by the name of Dr. Juan Fábregas arrived on Cozumel with the intention of hiring a boat and crew to take him to Tulum.   His request fell on deaf ears, however, as the War of the Casts was still in full swing and no one on Cozumel wanted to risk their lives entering the mainland stronghold of the Cruzoob Mayan rebels, or Bravos as they were called locally.   The Cruzoob (Mayan plural of the Spanish word cruz, or “cross”) were a militant Mayan religious faction who worshiped la cruz parlante, or “the talking cross.”   This cross was purported to pass the divine wishes of the creator down to the common folk as interpreted by a priest who listened to it, very similar to the “talking idols” of Ixchel in Cozumel.   One of the directives passed down to the masewaloob, or Maya common folk, was that all Spaniards and half-breeds should be expunged from the land of Yucatan.   To this end, beginning in 1847, the Cruzoob took it upon themselves to massacre Spaniards where and when the found them. ....CONTINUE READING

The island is not ready to topple into the sea yet!

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For many years, I heard the old urban legend repeated as fact by many Cozumeleños that the island of Cozumel was sitting on a champagne-glass (“copa”) shaped pedestal, hidden under the sea.  It always amazed me how many people believed and retold this story as the gospel truth.   Once, there was a near riot when panicked islanders became irrationally concerned with some blasting that a construction company was doing.   The folks in the neighborhood were whipped up into a wild-eyed frenzy over fears of what would happen if the tremors from this blasting would fracture the “stem” that was supposedly supporting the island.   They were all worried that the island would tip over and fall beneath the waves! ....CONTINUE READING

The Documentary of Cozumel that Jacques Cousteau Never Made

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In 1955, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Louis Malle made a 1 hour 23 minute documentary entitled Le Monde du Silence (the same title as the book published by Cousteau and Frédéric Dumas in 1953) which contained underwater scenes.   The film debuted in Cannes in 1956 and won a Palme d’Or.   In 1957 it won an Oscar for the Best Documentary at the American Academy Awards.   Many people over the years have come to believe that this film contained scenes of Palancar Reef, but that is most definitely not true.   All the scenes in this documentary were shot in eastern hemisphere.   All the underwater shots were made in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean.   None were filmed in Mexico. ....CONTINUE READING