Sunday, December 4, 2011

Public Service Announcement

I am a teeny tiny bit sensitive concerning the fact that people get Cancun and Cozumel confused. It doesn't piss me off or anything, it's just that we go to Cozumel, not Cancun and I would NOT go to Cancun unless someone was paying me and yeah, I'd go and then I'd get the bus down to Playa del Carmen and get on the ferry to Cozumel.
And what's the difference you might ask?
They're both in Mexico on the Caribbean and have gorgeous beaches and people go there and drink tequila. Right?
Well, yes. Sort of, although it's a little bit like asking what the difference between Disney World and Wakulla Springs is or maybe more to the point- the difference between oh, say, Miami Beach and Dog Island.

Cancun was an invention by the then-president of Mexico to attract tourists about thirty years ago. According to the web site History of Cancun, Mexico, "The place chosen was a deserted sand spit somewhere offshore near a little fishing village called Puerto Juarez. The name of the uninhabited place was Snake's Nest, but of course in Maya language: Cancun."

Whereas on the other hand, Cozumel is an island off the coast further south which has had a town, a culture, and a life for a very long time. Supposedly it was settled by the Maya in the first millennium AD and according to our good friend Wikipedia, artifacts on the island date back even farther to "preclassic Olmec." Plus- Cozumel was (and still is to some of us) the sacred home of Ixchel, the Mayan moon goddess and was a shrine to be visited by Mayan women as a fertility pilgrimage.

Jacques Cousteau "discovered" Cozumel in 1960 when he saw the reefs there. It has been a popular diving destination ever since although I do not dive and have been told countless times that it's ridiculous to go to Cozumel and NOT dive, I don't care. I snorkel.
When Mr. Moon and I first visited Cozumel in 1987 it was a great deal more laid-back and "undiscovered" than it is now but I still love it. Things change. Some things, thankfully, do not. The people in Cozumel are what I truly think keep bringing me back.
I just love the Maya.
Damn, I do.
Plus- maybe Ixchel? Something draws me back over and over and over again.

Cancun is a full-out, completely invented tourist destination where people go to get crazy, drink themselves into stupors, eat American Mexican food and avail themselves of every Mexican vacation cliche in the book. Not that I haven't seen people drink themselves into a stupor in Cozumel but that is usually a person of the cruise-ship variety.
The cruise ships come and then they go.
Me? I go and then I stay.
Okay. We do sometimes go over to the mainland to see some of the amazing Mayan ruins. Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum. There are others I would love to see and hope to some day. 

But I have no desire to visit Cancun with its giant hotels, its frenetic night-life.

Give me funky Cozumel with its zocaro where the little children play as their parents look on and the teenagers flirt with each other and the grandmothers are about two feet tall and have faces as deeply wrinkled as Keith Richards'. (You know I can't not mention Keith on a Sunday.)

Cancun translates to Snake Nest. Cozumel translates to Isle of the Swallows.

I think that pretty much sums it up.

And so- if ever offered a trip to Cancun, you might want to think about it. You might want to say, "How about Cozumel instead?"
Or even Isla Mujeres which is another island and one even smaller and less developed than Cozumel and another place I want and NEED to visit.

I have grown up in Florida and I am not ashamed to be a tourist. I am not even ashamed to visit tourist destinations. I just want them to be at least BASED on some sort of reality.
If there even is such a thing.

Glad we cleared that up.

Adios and vaya con whatever dios you believe in.

P.S. Elizabeth- do not take this personally. People think I go to Cancun all the time, including people I have known in real life for decades. Sigh.
I love you.


  1. I just love the Caribbean in general. I've been to Cozumel but I don't think I stayed long enough. My last Cancun visit was in my twenties and I did exactly what you mentioned but that was exactly what I was looking for at the time. Now that I'm a grown ass woman, I'll have to check out some more low-key Mexico.

  2. Thanks for the lesson, one would make my soul soar, the other would make my skin crawl. I really need to go somewhere wonderful like that soon. Until then, I will live vicariously through your wonderful posts.

    I am nosy and curious and had to know what Hank was talking about and found this discussion thread, which might be useful to you if you go looking for it:

    For those who prefer Xtabentun "Vallisoletano", it appears that they have changed their label.

    When in PDC last week, I was not able to find "Vallisoletano".
    A shop keeper told me it is now called "Once Letras". (with a red label) I took a chance and bought two bottles. It seems to be exactly the same as the "Vallisoletano" so I guess the shop keeper was not lying, just to make a sale. It has a lovely honey flavour, very smooth.

    It sounds intoxicating, and just what I need, another type of alcoholic beverage to crave :)

  3. i've been to cancun X2 - long ago in 90 and 91, my husband won the trips through his job - but didn't do the things you mention.

    instead we went to the beach, both the wave-pounding caribbean side and the bathtub smooth bahia de mujeres, and slept on the sand. we walked around the town grocery store taking pictures, attended a local church wedding for no reason (we were warmly welcomed), and spent a day each at chichen itza and tulum. we did those things without a tour guide and drove a rented VW. it was black.

    we also snorkeled at xel-ha.

    we slept a lot and ate a lot of fruit. got sunburned.

    we also went to isla mujeres X2 and hung around. ate fish. drove a scooter without brakes. snorkeled. bargained for a rug that's hanging on the wall to my left right now, and in the evening returned to cancun to sleep.

    the people we met at the wedding and the local businesses were really sweet.

    what i want now is to go to cuba.

  4. I got it and knew that you would not go to Cancun. I tell people about your amazing sea glass collection from Cozumel. I hope that you find some beauties this trip as well. Lots of photos, okay?

  5. I hope you plan on posting at least once or twice on your trip...? As someone who is travelling vicariously, I'm all psyched to see photos and hear of adventuring in the Isle of the Swallows. Hey, that sounds like it could be book title..."The Isle of the Swallows"...hmmm.....
    I'd read it!

  6. gradydoctor- Uh-huh. You ARE a grown ass woman and I'll bet you'd love Cozumel.

    Mel- It's a sippin' thing for sure. And thank-you! I'll have to write this down or I'll forget it.

    Dottie- Sounds like our trips in Cozumel. There's a wild side there, too, which is rough and gorgeous which we always visit. And the church and, and, and.
    Cuba. Oh. Me too.

    Syd- We picked that glass up right in front of our hotel as we watched the sunset every night one trip. It is beautiful, isn't it?
    And I do think I'll be posting from there. Probably.

    Ms. Fleur- Or, a porno movie. Tee-hee.

  7. Whoa, some history there. Shee-it, I'm going to Cozumel, by golly. After my bike ride today in the freezing NW, a sandy beach and tequila sounds perfect.

    XXX your friend, Beth

  8. Sometimes I think you are my twin. Cancan might as well be in Miami Beach. I also love the Maya. They are an extraordinary people. We have been to all those ruins too, more than once. I love Mexico, the ancient culture, the color, the...oh well, all of it.

  9. Beth- I am thinking of you on your bike ride, your almonds for sustenance. I admire you so.

    Ellen Abbott- What is your favorite ruin?


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