|San Gervasio - on Cozumel Island
Location: Quintana Roo, Mexico
11 miles from San Miguel de Cozumel and downtown ferry pier,
44 miles southeast of Cancun (mainland), 12 miles from Playa
del Carmen (45 minute ferry ride to mainland). Can be visited
as a shore excursion for cruise ship passengers docked at
|The Maya archeological site of San Gervasio has an unusually long history, beginning sometime around 100 BC and continuing as late as the 16th century.
Located on Cozumel Island, the largest island in the Mexican Caribbean, it was still a functioning religious site at the time the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century. In the heart of the island, in a lush jungle populated with brilliantly colored iguanas and lush flowers and foliage, one can see why no one ever wanted to abandon this beautiful place.
San Gervasio was a site dedicated to the Mayan goddess Ixchel ("She of the Rainbows"), deity of midwifery, fertility, medicine and weaving. Many women from the mainland Mayan settlements made the pilgrimage here to Ixchel´s shrine at some point in their lifetime. A graceful arch protects an altar on a sacbe (ancient road) leading into the ceremonial center. Many statues to Ixchel were found here and are still being discovered at the 40+ temples on the island. It is believed that a large ceramic image of Ixchel delivered oracles spoken by a hidden priestess for pilgrims with questions.
Although the archaeological site at San Gervasio has not had a lot of restoration, there are numerous structures and the beautiful natural setting makes a visit there worthwhile. One of the most interesting buildings is the Temple of the Hands. Inside, numerous small red hand prints of unknown significance are painted on the wall, leading more than one tourist to speculate that perhaps this was a day-care center for pilgrim moms!
The Mayan ruins at San Gervasio are a welcome retreat for those visiting the busy island of Cozumel. Take time to enjoy the peaceful setting of this fertile jungle shrine dedicated to the Maya goddess Ixchel.
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