In Mayan times Isla Mujeres was called Ekab. It was once one of the 4 provinces or Mayan territories that formed what is today the State of Quintana Roo. The island served as a sanctuary for the goddess Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of Fertility, reason, medicine, happiness and the moon. The temple was located at the south point of the island and was also used as the lighthouse. The Mayans also came to the island to harvest salt from the salt lagoons.
“During Lent of 1517 Francisco Hernandez de Cordova sailed from Cuba with three ships to procure slaves for the mines … (Others say he sailed to discover new lands). He landed on Isla de las Mujeres, to which he gave the name because the idols he found there, of the goddesses of the country, Ixchel and her daughters and daughter-in-laws , vestured from the girdled down, and having the breast uncovered after the manner of the Indians. The building was of stone, such as to astonish them and they found certain objects of gold which they took.” Excerpt from Yucatan Before and After the Conquest written in 1566 by Friar Diego de Landa.
For the next three centuries Isla Mujeres was uninhabited. The only visitors were fishermen and pirates who used Isla as a refuge and left their women on the island for ‘safekeeping’ while they sailed the high seas. Famous pirates like Henry Morgan and Jean Lafitte walked the shores of Isla as the legend goes, buries their stolen treasure under the white sands.
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 fishermen found the waters around the island to be a fisherman’s paradise and the village slowly grew.
** information above borrowed from a random write-up that seems consistent with many other versions around the island
Don is a former educator and having worked for a Canadian airline, he enjoys travel that is mildly