Mexican Caribbean

El Cedral: Cozumel’s History

Located 22 kilometers to the south of the island’s downtown area, you can find El Cedral, one of Cozumel’s first settlements that is filled with history and beautiful traditions. El Cedral is known for being the oldest Mayan settlement at Cozumel, having been built in the year 800 AD, and despite the fact that most of Cozumel’s population lives at downtown San Miguel, there are still families that live there to this day. 

Every year at the end of April and the start of May, a celebration is held; this celebration is of religious nature and is believed to have started between 1848 and 1849. Nowadays, some of the things you can expect during these celebrations are cock fights, horse races, live music, folklore dances, traditional dishes, and much more. It’s very common amongst the youth (I speak as if I wasn’t a part of that demographic) to stay with someone with a property at El Cedral, party, and get drunk, but that is mostly kept on the down low and isn’t consider tradition, even though I would say partying and getting drunk are very much a part of living in Mexico, therefore traditions. 

(Photo taken by Martín Dzul)

Beginnings of El Cedral’s celebrations 

The story begins in the year 1847 during the “Guerra de Castas”, a war started by Mayan rebels against mestizos and Spaniards. This war has been estimated to have cost around 25,000 people’s lives, and it ended in the year 1901 when the Mayan capitol Chan Santa Cruz was taken by the federal Mexican army. 

(Photo taken by Martín Dzul)

Casimiro Cárdenas (from Sabán, Yucatán) was able to survive a massacre by the Mayan rebels, and after fleeing from his hometown, he arrived at Cozumel with a group to repopulate the island. After the survival of such a traumatic event, it is said by Velio Vivas Valdés (who is a vitalist chronicler of Cozumel), in his book “Travesía por la Historia de Cozumel”, that Casimiro promised moving forward, he would celebrate in honor of la Santa Cruz every year and so would his descendants. This first celebration took place at El Cedral and continues to do so every year. 

(Photo taken by Martín Dzul)

It’s great knowing the history of the places you are planning on visiting to understand where their traditions stem from, and I know that this is a rather brief explanation, but I do find that hearing it being explained to you from the mouth of a local is much more interesting than simply reading it online. If you do visit the island, this is a must-do stop, and a good-guided tour (Check our Private Island Tour!) can be just what you need to feed your history geek needs! We work with Ary Vivas, who is a driver-guide for our Private Island Tour, and he is also related to Cozumel’s chronicler Velio Vivas Valdés. 



Bee Díaz