Isla Mujeres most recent history

In 1821 after Mexico got its Independence, people started to settle in the island, in the part that today is downtown Isla Mujeres, it became shelter for mayans fleeing from the “guerra de castas” (war of castes) that took place between 1847 and 1900, this people named the small village “Pueblo de Dolores” (Town of Dolores).

The island started to transform into a tourist destination in the 1950’s, everything was roustic and there was no ferry service from inland so tourists would flash their car lights so that small boats that belonged to some fishermen would come to pick them up.

1969 marked an important year for the Island, Carlos Garcia Castilla locally known as “válvula”, a local fisherman, was diving for lobsters, he started realizing that there was this cave where sharks constantly came in but didn’t came out, one day and dragged by curiosity, he entered the cave by freediving about 65 feet to where it was and discovered that the sharks were “sleeping”, before his discovery it was thought that sharks didn’t sleep.

When he came back to Isla Mujeres, he went looking for the most notorious resident that lived there at the time, Ramon Bravo, he was a well known mexican diver that have worked with Jacques Cousteau, he was also an echologist and cinematographer and most of all he was an important figure in the preservation and study of the sharks worldwide, they did some tours to the cave together before calling National Geographic that started investigating.

It didn’t take long for Jacques Cousteau arrived aboard his famous Calypso and now Isla Mujeres was in the spotlight between marine biologists and divers around the world! It has never been determined if they are in fact sleeping or not, people that have entered the cave usually comment that the eyes of the sharks are open and follows them when they move, the cave was named “Cave of the sleeping sharks” short after studies ended.

In 1970 Cancun started developing and tourists from all over the world started coming visiting the island for a day, littles hotels started appearing in downtown Isla Mujeres, the sand streets were paved and phone service was established, the island open itself to the world and tourism flourished until today, we can now find from that rustic old downtown hostel to luxurious all inclusive resorts and 5 star hotels.

The island has survived 2 major hurricanes, Gilbert in 1988 and Wilma in 2005 both considered among the most powerful and destructive hurricanes ever recorded, but the people of Isla Mujeres have raised again, with faith and determination they have never stopped receiving people from all over the world.

Keywords: Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Ramon Bravo, Cave of the sleeping sharks, National Geographic