My friend Cat just left Cozumel to return to her new home in Germany. Allie, Cat and I decided to spend her last day visiting the ancient ruins of the town of San Gervaiso, which contained the ruins of a temple built to honor the goddess X'cel ('she of the rainbow'). Ix Chel was the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine.
Her temple was built on Cozumel because the Island was the eastern most point of the Mayan territories. Of course, the sun rises in the east, with its light hitting Cozumel before any of the other Mayan provinces, and so the island was chosen to celebrate the beginning of life (conception and fertility). Incidentally the second most eastern point is the Island of Isla Mujeres, which literally means 'island of the midwives'.
Women from far and wide would make pilgrimage to the Island to pray at the shrine of Ix Chel for their families' fertility. Many weddings were performed on the site. This arch was at the opening of the town:
You can see that the curve of the arch has six inverted steps on each side. The moon is full every 28 days and each of the steps represents a full phase of the moon with the top of the arch representing the 13th moon of the year or the 'blue moon' (second full moon in one month which happens once a year - actually New Years Eve of 2009 - which will be cool for camping on the beach). The arch would cast a shadow to the east or west depending on which side of the solstice the calendar was on. This acted as a sign for the towns people to plan or harvest crops.
Under the arch is a stone map of the Island showing all of the reefs - this would act as a guide for sailors:The light gray stone in the middle represents the Island with the broad end being the north and the point - Punta Sur. The smaller rocks surrounding the Island represented reefs and shipwrecks.
We paid $6 each to enter the sight and also $20 for a guide. I would strongly recomend paying for a guide as we learned a whole lot about the site that we otherwise would not have.
Another interesting feature of the town were these 'wells': Rather than containing water they actually lead to a system of underground passageways that lead to different locations in the town. Our guide has explored these caves during his training - very Indiana Jones!
I will definitely go back to this site with more guests as I am very interested in Mayan culture and would like to here the tour guide explain the site and the various numerological significances of various stair cases and positioning of buildings.