Isla has a rich history grounded in the Mayan traditions and full of pirate legends. In Pre-Columbian times the island was sacred to the Mayan goddess of childbirth and medicine, Ix Chel. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century they named it “Isla Mujeres” because of the many images of goddesses.
The island served as the sanctuary for the goddess Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of fertility, reason, medicine, happiness and the moon. The Temple was located at the South point of the island and was also used as the lighthouse. The light from torches was shown through holes in the walls, which could be seen by the navigators at sea.
A small Maya temple was once located on the southern tip of the island. However in 1988 Hurricane Gilbert caused extensive damage, leaving most of the foundation but only a very small portion of the temple. Today it is possible to visit the remains of the temple on the southern most tip of the island.
For years the only visitors were fishermen and pirates who used Isla as a refuge and left their women on the island “for safekeeping” while they sailed the high seas. Famous pirates like Henry Morgan and Jean Lafitte walked the shores of Isla and as legend goes, buried their stolen treasure under the white sands.
After the Independence of Mexico, a small village began in what is now downtown Isla Mujeres.