Tulum Drone Shot

Culture of the Mexican Caribbean

The Mexican Caribbean is a destination rich in cultural and historical significance. Quintana Roo was an area populated by the Mayans and later a territory through which Spaniards and pirates from different parts of the Old World passed in search of treasures or a hiding place.

The history of pirates in Quintana Roo begins in the 16th century, when the continuous conflicts between European maritime powers moved to the New World, giving rise to the practice of piracy. Initially sponsored by monarchs and private companies that were against the interests of the Spanish and English Crown, these pirates later formed independent groups that stalked the coasts and maritime vessels of the Caribbean Sea for three centuries.

Fort San Felipe

Remembering Our Past: A Site Coveted By Pirates

With more than 480 years of history, Isla Mujeres is a site of great Caribbean tradition and culture. Its history begins in Mayan times when the island was a highly prestigious sanctuary that was part of the Mayan province of Ekab. The land was consecrated to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon, love, and fertility, who received offerings that believers deposited on its beaches. Mayan women had to leave offerings and make a pilgrimage to the island as part of their transition from girl to woman. The island remained a sanctuary until 1517 when the Spaniard Francisco Hernández de Córdoba arrived on the island and, finding several figurines in the shape of a woman, gave it the name Isla de Mujeres, which over time was adapted to its current name.

In 1850 the town of Dolores was founded on Isla Mujeres, where more than 250 fishers, pirates, and Mayans who had fled the Caste War settled. Due to its geographical position, Isla Mujeres, like many Caribbean islands, became a refuge for corsairs, smugglers, and slave traders, one of the most famous being Fermín Mundaca, who settled on the island at the beginning of the 20th century when the British army persecuted slavers. There he built the beautiful Hacienda Mundaca, intending to convince a beautiful islander known as "La Trigueña" to marry him, which he never achieved.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the charming island of Holbox was besieged by various pirates, including Captain Lafitte, Francis Drake, and Francisco de Molas, who used it as a refuge for many years. Originally from Catalonia, de Molas was a customs official in Yucatan and in charge of receiving merchandise and managing the funds destined to rebuild Yalahau, which was the port of Holbox, until one day he was accused of stealing funds, slave and merchandise trafficking, and for conducting business with infamous corsairs, such as the Lafitte brothers, which is why he was captured and taken to a prison in Mérida. He escaped prison and fled to Cozumel, where Punta Molas, named after him is now found.

Cozumel was a territory controlled by Jean Lafitte and his brother, who were engaged in the slave trade and had numerous shelters and supporters on the island. Another of the pirates who settled in Cozumel was the Welshman Sir Henry Morgan, who upon arriving on the island fell totally in love with its coves, caves, and Mayan vestiges, which were the perfect places to hide his treasures.

To the south of the Mexican Caribbean, Bacalar was one of the most valued sites by English, French, and Dutch pirates, who came in search of dyewood, which is why the Spanish built the Fort of San Felipe, a site that today houses the Museum of Piracy, which exhibits an important collection of weapons, maps, scale boats and historical pieces that concentrate the entire history of Bacalar and its relationship with pirates.

Visit the Mexican Caribbean and discover for yourself what made the pirates fall in love with this destination.


Explore the Mexican Caribbean