WHO WE ARE
Our legacy on Isla Mujeres begins with our matriarch, Henrietta (Enriqueta) Morris De Avila. Born in Los Angeles, California, she immigrated to Isla Mujeres in 1966. Inspired by her deep creative roots, she became a famous artist and painter of sea and landscapes, presenting her vision and realism using the palette of colors of both the Caribbean seas and her beloved Mexico.
At the age of 11, her artistic education began in California at the Chouniard Institute of Art in Los Angeles, California. She continued advanced studies at Pierce College of Art in the San Fernando Valley where she won numerous awards for her oil paintings of children and her experimental work on mosaics, glass, shells and sand.
Between 1960 and 1965, she participated in more than thirty-five exhibitions across numerous cities in California, Nevada and Utah, leaving her beautiful works of art in homes of celebrities both nationally and internationally. Her works have been exhibited in galleries in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Brotman's in Sausalito, Barker Bros, Rothman's, Ira Roberts Gallery
and Paul Olson. Her creations graced the halls of exhibits at the famed La Jolla Art Center, Carmel Art Expos, and nationally acclaimed Sausalito House.
She studied and worked on her craft for more than fifty years in her quaint home studio right here on Isla Mujeres, humbly named, Casa Isleño, formerly Casa Isleño II. She drew inspiration from streets, shops and beaches filled with the laughter and friendships of the island inhabitants. This
creativeness led to modern tourist crafts of custom hand-painted T-shirts and collectible, artistic island-influenced shell designs which still can be seen in many homes of the islanders to this day.
We’ve paid honor to Enriqueta’s legacy by electing to keep her property under family ownership as we endeavor to preserve some of the original, but updated features of simple island living. It would be our pleasure to welcome you to our house, Enriqueta’s Casa Isleño.
Isla Mujeres is nestled on the eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, where it is the first place to receive the sun's rays every morning, and therefore it is also the first to see each sunset. Its terrain at the southern end of the island has elevations of over 20 meters, and with its natural separation from the coast, these first sunrises and sunsets have fantastic effects that are not visible from anywhere else in the region.
Geographically, the island is small, stretching 7 kilometers in length from north to south, with its width varying from 900 meters at the widest point and just 100 meters at the narrowist area. Its magical natural beauty is framed by a turquoise sea, with incomparable white beaches that are recognized as among the ten most beautiful in the world.
The beaches dominate the landscape of green mangroves and coconut palms, giving a tropical view that is magical and characteristic of the island, where the city of Isla Mujeres lies touched by history and legends forged by fishermen and sailors who first came to these beaches 2000 years ago.
While the island is no larger than 340 hectares, it is surrounded by 170,000 hectares of national parks in the surrounding seas. These include Parque Nacional Isla Contoy, Biósfera del Tiburón-Ballena, and the Parque Nacional Costa Occidental de Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancún y Punta Nizuc.
Isla Mujeres has been an important place for events since prehistoric times, and there is evidence of the Mayan culture on the isle two thousand years ago. These early occupants of the isle were known for their culture's remarkable progress in the areas of astronomy, agriculture, architecture, and especially commerce, navigation, and fishing.
In Isla Mujeres, the pre-Colombian Maya encountered the salinas and fishing as two natural resources that could be exploited. In accordance with their religious beliefs, in order to obtain good harvests of salt, the Maya built a shrine on the island to the goddess Ixchel, a deity whose virtues include the ability to provide abundance. Ixchel was the deity of the moon, birth, weaving, and medicine and her shrine was in the central part of the island, where the famous Vista Alegre Hacienda of Fermin Mundaca was located. At the southern part of Isla Mujeres, it is possible to see the remains of an Observatory of the cosmos, which was also used to monitor boats in the area.
It was traditional to make offerings to the goddess Ixchel in the form of a woman, and when the Spanish arrived in 1517 and saw these accumulated offerings, they named the island "La Isla de las Mugeres". Isla Mujeres has the distinction of being the first Hispanic name recorded in what is now Mexico.
The first Spaniard who came to Isla Mujeres from Cuba was Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, who was followed by Juan de Grijalva, and Hernan Cortes. The latter continued on to the lands of the Anahuac, where he fought and conquered New Spain, which is now Mexico. These three explorers and conquerors found interpreters and guides, including two indigenous Mayas known as Julian and Melchor, before they were assisted by La Malinche and Gerónimo de Aguilar.
In 1517, Julian and Melchor were the first persons baptized into the Christian faith in New Spain. This event in the municipality of Isla Mujeres was considered the beginning of the Catholic Church in Mexico. From the meetings in the early 16th century between the Spaniards and our Mayan ancestors, the mestizo race emerged, with Isla Mujeres serving as a point of reference for the expeditions of conquest that gave birth to New Spain, which is now Mexico.
Among the most famous of local legends is the tale of the love that was ignited in the Spanish pirate Fermin Mundaca by a beautiful young native woman known as La Trigueña, whose love the older man could not win with his power, wealth, nor the beautiful hacienda he constructed on the island. It is said he went mad and died of sadness, when he eventually discovered that life without love is not living.
Among Pirates, Corsairs, and Fishermen
During the period of Spanish government, Isla Mujeres was a location that harbored Cuban-Spanish fishermen, runaway slaves from the West Indian islands of the Caribbean, pirates & privateers in hiding, and sailors who traveled in the seas between Honduras and the ports of the Gulf of Mexico, carrying raw materials and transporting all sorts of goods and provisions for the new communities that were developing.
In the case of pirates and privateers, for more than three centuries they came to Isla Mujeres without distinction of nationality. Even if the Spanish government in the Yucatan periodically expelled them, they returned to occupy the islands and eastern coast of the peninsula. Among the most famous of those who were temporary occupants of Isla Mujeres were: Laurence Graff, (aka) Lorencillo, Jean David Nau (aka) El Olonés, Diego el Mulato, el Pirata Abraham, Van Horn (aka) Pata de Palo, and the brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte, until the start of the 19th century. The strategic location of the island worked very well for the purposes of these evildoers, because they could spy on the maritime traffic between the Gulf of Mexico and Honduras, choosing which ships to assault.
Regarding the fishermen, they came from Cuba, as well as from Yucatan and Campeche in search of meat from turtles and groupers, mainly. The groupers were transported alive to markets in Cuba and Campeche by ship, while the turtle meat was preserved with the salt available on the island. They also captured hawkbill turtles whose thin shells earned a good price because they were used for making household objects, as well as personal ornaments. The season for the fishermen was from March to July, when they came to the island from their places of origin, and they returned home when the season began for hurricanes and then the northern winds.
There is magic in the natural marine environment with its incomparable coral reefs, populated with a great variety of fish, sponges, turtles, conchs, and lobsters.
Birth of the City of Isla Mujeres
With the achievement of the Independence of Mexico and the expulsion of pirates, Isla Mujeres continued to be visited by Cuban-Spanish fishermen, as well as those from Yucatan and Campeche, until a town was founded as a result of the Caste War bringing mestizos to the island. This town was the origin of the modern, thriving city of Isla Mujeres, head of the municipality of the same name, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
In August of 1850, by decree, the Town of Dolores was founded, which referred to the cry for Independence by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. The founders of this town were refugees from a social war, who had been farmers. However, within 20 years they had become skilled fishermen and sailors, thanks to help from the Cuban fishermen who frequented the island.
Another event that took place in the second half of the nineteenth century was the arrival of the Cuban flag, which was in transit from New Orleans to Cardenas, Matanzas (), in 1850, when it spent several days in Isla Mujeres while its creator, General Narciso Lopez, used the island to organize his forces for an attempt to liberate Cuba from the Spanish government.
The Cuban patriot Jose Marti spent a few days on the island, and wrote a beautiful manuscript recounting the daily life of the islanders. The married couple the Le Plongeons, who discovered the Choc-mol at Chichen Itza, also wrote about the customs and lives of the islanders, whose beliefs about treating diseases by natural means, now seem like something from fantasy or magic.
For about a hundred years, from 1850 to 1950, time seems to have stood still in this place known as a "romantic island of fishermen surrounded by tropical seas". The transformation began in 1953 as a result of the highway built between Valladolid and Puerto Juarez, which ended the monotony and lethargy of the inhabitants of Isla Mujeres.
By 1957, small hotels had been built to house visitors, who arrived in increasing numbers. The first large hotel was opened in 1964 on the northern end of the island, and was named Zazil-Ha. After 1971, things began to accelerate with the initiation of Project Cancun, which converted the island into a destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors who are attracted by its culture, natural beauty, beaches, diving, Mayan-Caribbean food, and especially by its tranquility and safety.
As a result of the cultural fusion of the Mayan-Hispanic customs, Isla Mujeres has a rich wealth of traditions and legends, some of which are common to all parts of Mexico, and others are native to the island. Traditions that are celebrated include: Carnaval, Regattas, Easter (Semana Santa), Whale Shark Festival, Foundation Festival, Day of the Fishermen, Hanal Pixan (Food for the Souls) and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and festivals for the Virgin Mary including, Candlemasshe Assumption (Our Lady of Charity), (Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico) and (Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, who is the patron saint of the island).
In addition to the legend of Mundaca's infatuation for La Trigueña, there are legends of buried treasure, of pirates appearing among the sand dunes, of Gypsies and Chinese who rise from the sea to bewitch the islanders, of a headless Negro accompanied by a large dog with demonish eyes that glow in the dark, of a giant, terrible monster called Huaypach that steals people's eyes, of a vampire that appears on the darkest nights to scare people, as well as the legends of and , among others.
The architecture in Isla Mujeres is distinguished by the presence of Victorian style wooden houses, which are finely crafted with handmade details. There has been more than 2000 years of human activity on Isla Mujeres, which has left the remains of a cultural heritage in the form of an Observatory on the southern end of the isle, and a Sanctuary to Ixchel in the central part of the island. Also there are remains of the Hacienda Vista Alegre of Fermin Mundaca, which was representative of the agricultural-artisanal style of the mid-nineteenth century with the Classic Mudejar-Romano style, which was unique in this region.
Included in residential architecture, we must not forget the simple oval Mayan hut made from palm and scrub-wood, which existed before the finely crafted Victorian wooden houses, that gave way to the cement and stone buildings with Mayan-Caribbean accents that are typical in the City of Isla Mujeres today.
The customs of Isla Mujeres are a result of a combination Mayan and Hispanic cultural traditions. The gastronomy includes seafood dishes prepared with regional spices. The music, dance, and poetry have profound Mayan-Caribbean roots, which are preserved in dance schools and by La Trova Islena ). There are many vendors of a great variety of home made foods including all types of sweets, coconut water, tamales, roasted corn, cooked meats and seafood in tacos with a variety of sauces which include chiltomate and xnipec.
On the beaches, traditional Tikinxic is very popular, which is a fish grilled over charcoal after being marinaded with achiote, which is sprinkled with vinegar and sea salt while cooking and covered with tomato slices, onion, and sweet peppers. There are a variety of types of ceviches and seafood stews, made with lobster, shrimp, octopus, squid, crab, conch, and other seafood of the area.
There are bans that are observed on turtle, conch, lobster, grouper, and sharks, whose magical habitats add to the attractions of the unique and wonderful island, where reef sharks sleep, and lobsters march in formation around religious symbols placed under the seas, such as the Cross of the Bay or the Virgin of the Lighthouse , which increase interest in conserving the natural wealth that is sheltered in our reefs.
In conclusion, this is a magical town that grew from a fishing village, where the people are proud of their traditions of surviving hurricanes, and their customs have been forged by centuries of history. From the original Maya to the modern community, the islanders have learned to take advantage of the adversities that nature inevitably presents. Who would have doubts..after they encounter the balmy night breezes, while listening to pleasant chords from a guitar accompanying a love song, beneath the palm trees?
Free high-speed internet
Free Wifi access
Hot Water Showers
Outdoor community BBQ
Drinking Water Dispensers
Laundry facilities nearby