San Gervasio, Cozumel
San Gervasio; Cozumel Island
Location: Quintana Roo, Mexico
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.
*What to bring when visiting San Gervasio:
Your curiosity and sense of adventure, sunglasses and/or sun hat, a lightweight rain poncho or collapsible umbrella (in tropical climates occasional showers can happen any time of year) and water. You can buy cold bottled purified water at the entrance to the ruins. If you are visiting San Gervasio as a shore excursion from your cruise ship you can easily visit the site on your own.
If you have a whole day to explore Cozumel Island and also want to do other things like snorkel or scuba dive or enjoy the less populated beaches on the east side of the island you may want to rent a car. Or, if you want a quick trip out to the ruins numerous taxis will await you when you disembark and for around $50 you can hire one to take you to the ruins, wait while you visit there and return you to either the town of San Miguel or your cruise ship's dock. A taxi can be hired at as you exit the pier. Ask about pricing before your taxi driver starts to drive.
If you have a full day in Cozumel you may want to enjoy the world class snorkeling and diving, pristine beaches and many restaurants featuring excellent local cuisine.
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