Cancun Mythbusters

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Cancun Mythbusters

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Cancun is a wonderful holiday destination known for its white sandy beaches, beautiful diving spots and party nights – not really a place one would expect to be surrounded by urban myths. Cancun, however, has long been a legend, namely by the story of how it was founded. Centuries ago, pirates and corsairs were cruising the Caribbean waters around the islands offshore from Cancun. And even more centuries ago, the Mayas inhabiting the region practiced religious rituals that would seem strange to us. These offer enough material for scary urban legends in Cancun. True or false? We're putting Cancun mythbusters to the test!


1. Cancun was just an empty, deserted beach until the 1970s.


TRUE. It's hard to believe but, where now one hotel tower after another forms the skyline of one of the most beautiful Caribbean beaches, there was once just a lonely strip of sand with nothing but a fishing village and some Mayan ruins nearby. Cancun was virtually built out of nothing when Mexican tourism authorities had the idea to repeat the success story of Acapulco. The government even had to finance the first hotels, as private investors were too skeptical of the project. No further need to explain the outcome of this undertaking. The close to 2 million Cancun visitors yearly are enough evidence of its success.

2. Cancun's tourism boom was the reason for the creation of a new state.


TRUE. Cancun is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It's indeed an interesting and absolutely true historical detail that this vast territory didn't fulfill the minimum requirements for statehood as laid down in the country's constitution before Cancun started to boom, attracting workforce for the construction and tourism industries, and creating new sources of income for Quintana Roo. It simply lacked a sufficient number of inhabitants and economical resources to finance its own administration.

3. In nearby Cozumel, the Spanish touched Mexican ground for the first time.


TRUE. Juan Grijalda was leading an expedition from Cuba to explore the coast of Yucatan peninsula and set foot on the island of Cozumel in 1518.

4. Pirates kept their women on "Isla Mujeres" while cruising the sea for prey.


FALSE. There are various legends around the question why the small island – nowadays a popular destination for day trips from Cancun – was named "Island of Women." The pirate story is one of Cancun urban legend – oft repeated, but a more probable explanation says it was given this name because the Spanish conquerors found lots of little figurines in the shape of women, probably a Mayan goddess.

5. Famous pirates used Cozumel and Isla Mujeres as their hideouts.


TRUE. Detailed historical documents are missing to prove these pirate stories, but such Cancun urban myths are presumed to be true. The Spanish galleons and treasure fleets were cruising the Caribbean loaded with gold and other precious goods, and the famous pirates of the time, such as Henry Morgan and Jean Lafitte, assaulted them and – in some cases – got away with treasures. It can be considered historically true that some of them landed on the islands offshore Cancun to hide.

6. At the beginning of the 20th century, Cozumel experienced an upswing thanks to the invention of chewing gum.


TRUE. What sounds like a strange urban legend oft repeated in Cancun is, in fact, true. It was a Mexican general who first imported chicle, chewed by natives in Mexico, to the U.S. What was originally thought to be used for the production of rubber led to the invention of one of the most popular products of all time – chewing gum. With that, the export of chicle from Central America started to boom, and Cozumel was the point where raw material was collected for transport further to the U.S.

7. Cenotes were used by the Maya for human sacrifice.


TRUE. Indeed there are many findings and scientific evidence that cenotes – sinkholes filled with groundwater, which can be found all over the peninsula of Yucatan – were used by Mayas in their religious ceremonies to make human sacrifice. It is supposed that they were predominantly virgins; however, captured warriors were sacrificed in rituals also. Unfortunately, this is not just one of Cancun's scary urban legends.

The above should serve as a scoresheet for all Cancun mythbusters. How did you do?

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