|Native name: Kùtz
Satellite image of Cozumel Island in 2001
|Area||647.33 km2 (249.94 sq mi)|
|Largest city||San Miguel de Cozumel (pop. 77,236)|
|Presidente municipal (Municipal president)||Juan Carlos González Hernández (PRI)|
|Population||100,000 (as of 2011)|
|Density||154.5 /km2 (400.2 /sq mi)|
|Official website||Government website|
|Time zone UTC −6
DST: UTC −5
Cozumel (Spanish pronunciation: [koˈsumel], Yucatec Maya: Kùutsmil, English: Island of the Swallows) is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, opposite Playa del Carmen, and close to the Yucatán Channel. Cozumel is one of the ten municipalities (municipios) of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Cozumel is a tourist destination for its balnearios, scuba diving, and snorkeling. The main town on the island is San Miguel de Cozumel.
The island is located in the Caribbean Sea along the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula about 90 km (56 mi) south of Cancún and 10 km (6.2 mi) from the mainland. The island is about 48 km (30 mi) long and 16 km (9.9 mi) wide. With a total area of 477.961 km2 (184.542 sq mi), it is Mexico's largest Caribbean island, and Mexico's third-largest island, following Tiburón Island and Isla Ángel de la Guarda.
The majority of the population of island lives in the town of San Miguel (pop. 77,236 in 2010), which is on the island's western shore. The municipality, which includes two small areas on the mainland enclaved within the Municipality of Solidaridad with a land area of 10.423 km² (4.024 sq mi), has a total land area of 647.33 km² (249.93 sq mi).
The island is covered with an impenetrable jungle which has many endemic animal species. Cozumel is a flat island based on limestone, resulting in a karst topography. The highest natural point on the island is less than 15 m (49 ft) above sea level. The cenotes are deep water filled sinkholes formed by water percolating through the soft limestone soil during thousands of years. Cozumel's cenotes have very restricted access available only to qualified cave divers with appropriate registration. In the early 1990s, a group of cave explorers here discovered the 5th largest underwater cave in the world.
Cozumel has tropical savanna climate under the Köppen climate classification that closely borders on a tropical monsoon climate. The dry season is short, only occurring from February to April but even in these months, precipitation is observed, averaging about 45 millimetres (1.8 in) of rain per month. The wet season is lengthy, covering most of the months, with September and October being the wettest months, when precipitation averages over 240 millimetres (9.4 in). Thunderstorms can occasionally occur during the wet season. Temperatures tend to remain stable with little variation from month to month though the temperatures are cooler from December to February with the coolest month averaging 22.9 °C (73.2 °F). Owing to its proximity to the sea, the island is fairly humid, with an average humidity of 83%. The wettest recorded month was October 1980 with 792 millimetres (31.2 in) of precipitation and the wettest recorded day was June 19, 1975 with 281 millimetres (11.1 in). Extremes range from 9.2 °C (48.6 °F) on January 18, 1977 to 39.2 °C (102.6 °F).
|Record high °C (°F)||36.4
|Average high °C (°F)||28.6
|Daily mean °C (°F)||22.9
|Average low °C (°F)||19.4
|Record low °C (°F)||9.2
|Precipitation mm (inches)||81.4
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)||8.66||6.46||4.03||3.73||7.20||12.63||11.83||13.37||15.43||15.70||11.06||9.76||119.86|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||198.0||192.3||232.0||257.0||231.9||206.5||220.1||221.7||181.5||193.7||183.9||192.2||2,510.8|
|Source: Colegio de Postgraduados|
The Maya are believed to have first settled Cozumel by the early part of the 1st millennium AD, and older Preclassic Olmec artifacts have been found on the island as well. The island was sacred to Ix Chel, the Maya Moon Goddess, and the temples here were a place of pilgrimage, especially by women desiring fertility. There are a number of ruins on the island, most from the Post-Classic period. The largest Maya ruins on the island were near the downtown area and have now been destroyed. Today, the largest remaining ruins are at San Gervasio, located approximately at the center of the island.
The first Spanish expedition to visit Cozumel was led by Juan de Grijalva in 1518; in the following year Hernán Cortés stopped by the island on his way to Veracruz. The Grijalva and Cortés expeditions were both received peacefully by the Maya of Cozumel, unlike the expeditions’ experiences on other parts of the mainland. Even after Cortés destroyed some of the Maya idols on Cozumel and replaced them with an image of the Virgin Mary, the native inhabitants of the island continued to help the Spanish re-supply their ships with food and water so they could continue their voyages.
As many as 10,000 Maya lived on the island then, but in 1520, infected crew members of the Pánfilo Narváez expedition brought the smallpox contagion to the island and by 1570 only 186 men and 172 women were left alive on Cozumel. In the ensuing years Cozumel was often the target of attacks by pirates, and in 1650 many of the islanders were forcibly relocated to the mainland town of Xcan Boloná to avoid the buccaneers’ predation. Later, in 1688, most of the rest of the island’s population, as well as many of the settlements along the Quintana Roo coast, were evacuated inland to towns such as Chemax.
In 1861, American President Abraham Lincoln ordered his Secretary of State, William Henry Seward (who was later to purchase the Russian Territory of Alaska for the US in 1867), to meet with the Mexican charge d’affaires Matias Romero to explore the possibility of purchasing the island of Cozumel for the purpose of relocating freed American slaves offshore. The idea was summarily dismissed by Mexican President Benito Juarez, but in 1862 Lincoln did manage to establish a short-lived colony of ex-slaves on Île à Vache off the coast of Haiti.
In 1956, Mexican film director Rene Cardona shot the movie Un Mundo Nuevo under the waters of Cozumel at what is now known as Cardona Reef. In 1957, this film was translated into English and broadcast over American television as A New World. Cardona's movie is often confused with Jacques Yves Cousteau's 1956 documentary Monde du Silence, but Cousteau's film was shot entirely in the Eastern Hemisphere, and it was Cardona's film that brought the crystal clear waters of Cozumel to the attention of American divers. Cousteau did not visit the island for the first time until the late 1960s, years after the island's dive industry was well established.
Although the original airport was a World War II relic and was able to handle jet aircraft and international flights, a much larger airport was built in the late 1970s. This resulted in much greater tourism to Cozumel.
Scuba diving is still one of Cozumel's primary attractions, mainly due to the healthy coral reef marine communities. These coral reefs are protected from the open ocean by the island's natural geography. In 1996, the government of Mexico also established the Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park, forbidding anyone from touching or removing any marine life within the park boundaries. Despite the importance of healthy reefs to Cozumel's tourist trade, a deepwater pier was built in the 1990s for cruise ships to dock, causing damage to the reefs, and it is now a regular stop on cruises in the Caribbean.
The island was struck directly by two Category 5 hurricanes during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. First to arrive was Hurricane Emily in July. Despite Emily being a powerful storm, it was the slower moving Hurricane Wilma that caused the most destruction when it hit the island in October.
Tourism, diving and charter fishing comprise the majority of the island’s economy. There are more than 300 restaurants on the island and many hotels, some of which run dive operations, have swimming pools, private docks, and multiple dining facilities.
Other water activities include para-sailing, kitesurfing, and a tourist submarine. There are also two dolphinariums. At the cruise ship docks there are several square blocks of stores selling Cuban cigars, jewellery, t-shirts, tequila, and a large variety of inexpensive souvenirs. There are many restaurants in San Miguel that have a huge variety of different cuisines. In downtown Cozumel there are several discothèques, bars, cinemas, stages and restaurants. The main plaza includes; seasonal vendors, Mayan fire shows and a fixed stage where Cozumelenians and tourists celebrate the Sunday evening with a dance into the night.
All food and manufactured supplies are shipped to the island. Water is provided by three different desalination facilities located on the island.
There are two universities on the island: the University of Quintana Roo and Partenon. In addition to teaching English as a degree, they offer five other career options including natural resources research, tourism and commercial systems.
Cozumel is part of the State of Quintana Roo (Q-Roo). The Municipality of Cozumel consists of the island of Cozumel (with its offshore islets) and two pieces of adjacent mainland surrounded by the Municipality of Solidaridad. They are Calica and the Xel-Há Water Park. During the 2010 census there were 122 populated localities and 86 unpopulated localities enumerated.
In the July 7, 2013 municipal elections Fredy Marrufo Martín was voted the new Cozumel municipal president (mayor) for the 2013-2016 term and on July 14, 2013 officially became "president-elect".
Towns and villages
The largest localities (cities, towns, and villages) are:
|Name||2010 Census population|
|San Miguel de Cozumel||77,236|
|Kilómetro Cuatro y Medio||411|
The Festival of El Cedral in Cozumel is to this day a historic festival is held in the small town of El Cedral, in the south of Cozumel Island at the end of April. This annual event is said to have been started over 150 years ago by Casimiro Cárdenas. Cárdenas was one of a group that fled to the island from the village of Saban, on the mainland, after an attack during the War of the Castes. The attackers killed many other villagers, but Cárdenas survived whilst clutching a small wooden cross.
Legend has it that Cárdenas vowed to start an annual festival wherever he settled, to honor the religious power of this crucifix. Today, the original Holy Cross Festival forms part of the wider Festival of El Cedral, which includes fairs, traditional feasts, rodeos, bullfights, music and competitions. The celebrations last about 5 days in all and are held every year at the end of April or beginning of May.
The Cozumel Carnival or Carnaval de Cozumel has been celebrated as a tradition beginning from the late nineteenth century that fills Cozumel’s streets with numerous parades. It begins the week before Mardi-Gras and Fat Tuesday in February.
Cozumel has a number of endemic species and subspecies of bird including:
- the Cozumel Emerald
- the Cozumel Great Curassow, which is highly endangered
- the Cozumel Thrasher, which is nearly, if not already, extinct
- the Cozumel Vireo
- the Cozumel Wren
Endemic dwarf mammals are found on the island:
- the Cozumel Fox, which is nearly, if not already, extinct
- the Cozumel Island Coati, which is endangered.
- the Cozumel Island Raccoon, which is critically endangered
The island also harbors three rodents that are larger than their mainland counterpart: Oryzomys couesi, Peromyscus leucopus, and critically endangered Reithrodontomys spectabilis, the latter of which is also endemic to the island.
Endemic marine life:
Other native wildlife includes:
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- "Cozumel Pygmy Raccoon". Archived from the original on November 13, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to:|
- Cozumel at DMOZ
- Cozumel travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Cozumel Parks and Museums official site for the Quintana Roo State Foundation that manages Chankanaab Park, Punta Sur, San Gervasio and the Island Museum