Cancun History

Cancun history sees a once forgotten jungle and beach area developing into a world-class travel destination. All this within just a few decades. The Cancun Project, which was dreamed up by the Mexican government, targeted the pristine area for development and was approved in 1969. In 1970, the first project technicians made their way to the region. Initially, the main goal was to open up a road to Cancun from Puerto Juarez and to build a provisional airstrip. The "Master Development Plan" quickly began taking shape and would eventually lead to the development of a main tourism zone, a residential zone for permanent residents, and the installment of an international airport that could handle the area’s imminent transportation demands.

Long before Cancun became a world-famous beach vacation destination, it was home to Maya inhabitants. For those who are interested in obscure Cancun facts, the earliest of Spanish colonial sources imply that the island was originally known as Nizuc. After the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the majority of the resident Maya population either died or abandoned the area. Among the reasons for the Maya decline were disease, famines, and warfare. The ensuing population shift partly explains the change of the area’s name from Nizuc to Cancun.

Not all of the Maya people left the Cancun area after the Spanish conquest, and the imprint that the Maya left behind in general has always been a part of Cancun culture. The resort’s past and current names come from the Maya, for example. The current name first began to appear on maps in the 18th century and loosely translates to "nest of snakes." Snake iconography was actually discovered at the pre-Columbian site of Nizuc. Other pre-Columbian Mayan ruins sites in the region are now major attractions for Cancun tourists, with Tulum and Chichen Itza being prime examples.

One of the most interesting things about Cancun history is just how much the Cancun area has changed in such a relatively short amount of time. When development began in 1970, the island of Cancun was home to only a few residents and the nearby fishing village of Puerto Juarez counted approximately 120 residents. When the first Cancun hotels opened in 1974, real growth began and there was no looking back. The international airport was soon inaugurated and Cancun’s home state of Quintana Roo was awarded statehood.

Moving forward into the frame of modern-day Cancun, the city is now home to more than 500,000 residents and claims the title of Mexico’s largest tourism resort, surpassing Acapulco. Also worth noting for those who are interested in fun Cancun facts is how the resort has also surpassed such other Caribbean destinations as the Bahamas and Puerto Rico in popularity. These days, Cancun is the most highly visited destination in the Caribbean region.

In relation to Cancun culture, the resort has a very Americanized feel, and this helps to explain its popularity among travelers from the United States. Not lost, however, are the area’s historical ties to the ancient Maya. Also, the downtown area maintains a very Mexican atmosphere. After all, many of the Cancun locals live in the downtown area and come from the Yucatan and other Mexican states. The number of foreign residents has undoubtedly been on the rise, though, and many of the newcomers hail from the U.S. or Europe. Thus, Cancun culture will only continue to morph. It is also safe to say that the general Cancun area will continue to morph. A new marina is among the things that are projected for development, and there are desires to further develop the approximately 80-mile Cancun-Tulum tourism corridor. In other words, there should be plenty of things to add to the annals of Cancun history in the coming years.

Cancun Beaches

Cancun Beaches

With 14 miles of white sandy beaches and crystal clear water, it’s no wond...

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