Isla Cozumel played a deeply significant role in the Maya world as an important port of trade and, more importantly, as one of three major destinations of religious pilgrimages (the others were Izamal and Chichén Itzá, both in Yucatán state).
The island’s primary site—known as San Gervasio today—was dedicated to Ixchel, the Maya goddess of fertility as well as of the moon, childbirth, medicine, and weaving.
Archaeologists believe that every Maya woman was expected, at least once in her lifetime, to journey to Cozumel to make offerings to Ixchel for fertility—her own, and that of her family’s fields. Cozumel’s draw was powerful, as inscriptions there refer to places and events hundreds of miles away.
Twenty-four archaeological sites have been discovered on the island, though only four are easily accessible, and only the largest—San Gervasio—can properly be called a tourist attraction.
San Gervasio is certainly not as glorious as ruins found on the mainland, but it’s worth a visit all the same.
© Gary Chandler & Liza Prado from Moon Yucatán Peninsula, 9th edition