Location: Island of Cozumel, Mexico
Admission: $4 USD
Languages: English, Spanish
Recommended Time: 1 to 2 hours
Cozumel is famous for it’s tourism and beaches, but for a more encompassing understanding of the island, check out the Museo de la Isla de Cozumel (Museum of the Island of Cozumel). The museum is solely dedicated to the historyof Cozumel, such that it covers every topic necessary to tell the story of the island. The four exhibition halls (or Salons) are dedicated to different exhibits of interest.
1) Natural history of Cozumel
2) Ecology of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
3) Archaeology of Cozumel
4) 19th and 20th Century
There’s two additional spaces, but will cover those a bit later.
Thr first Sala (or Salon) acquaints you with the island, and keys sites. The first thing you’ll encounter is an interactive display that lets you press buttons to illuminate important places—like lagoons, archaeological sites, and historic lighthouses. As you continue around the room, you’ll discover how the island was formed, the drift of the Yucatan Peninsula, as well as learn about the native fauna of Cozumel.
Salon 2 is intriguing, as this is the exhibition is dedicated to the underwater world. If you’re a diver, or interested in reef life, this is the exhibition space for you. The curators bring the marine world into the terrestrial. The specimens in this room include dozens of variety of coral. This will also be the place to comprehend the growth rates of reefs, and the impact of humanity upon these ancient marine communities.
Salon 3 begins the human story of Cozumel through the use of beginning with the Mayan, and later the Spanish. The human history of this island of course include many seafaring artifacts, such as dugout canoe—carved from a single tree trunk. With the advent of European contact, we also see artifacts reflecting the clashing of cultures. One curious image on a wall panel illustrates a woodcut that circulated in Germany in 1521. The artwork shows how European artists were depicting the inhabitants of these lands only 40 years after contact.
As you and I are inhabitants of the 21st century, Salon 4 showcases the objects we are most familiar with—bicycles, storefronts, and early forms of diving gear. This room tells the story of modern Cozumel.
Downstairs, the museum also houses a rotating gallery, which upon this visit was filled with the sculptures of contemporary Mexican artist Alejandro Fuentes Quezada. A final interactive space features a reconstruction of typical Mayan home. This exhibition is created in the atrium of the building, and allows you to step inside, and see the intimate spaces of these ancient people.
Additionally while you’re here, you’ll find a coffee shop that shares the building with the museum. All in all I highly recommend this museum for divers, because of the fascinating dive artifacts and reef exhibit. If you’re looking for an afternoon break from the beach, plug into the history of this beautiful island, and of course enjoy a coffee in the terrace after you see the exhibits.
To learn about wildlife exhibits on a private Caribbean island, click here.