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Cancun History

Cancun on the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, where the Mayans, building on the ideas and inventions of the earlier Olmec civilization, settled around AD 200 and prospered, trading along the Mexican Caribbean, for hundreds of years. In these days, Cancun was a busy trading center. Of course, all of this changed with the arrival of the Spanish, who took over trade and all other business.

The first Spanish to arrive to the region arrived (several years before Hernan Cortes and his forces) were shipwrecked in Jamaica in 1511. One, Gonzalo Guerrero, married a noble woman from the area and fathered the first mestizo, children of mixed blood. While Guerrero led Mayan warriors in their fight against the Spanish conquerors that arrived in 1519, Jerónimo de Aguilar, the only other survivor of the shipwreck aided the conquerors as a translator.

The conquest itself was particularly difficult in this area because the population was disperse and did not easily give up their fight against the Spanish. Colonial life in the area was also fraught with difficulty. Indigenous rebellions and piracy were continuous problems for the Spanish. Even after Mexico declared its independence, the area continued to be home to conflict. The Caste Wars from 1847 to 1901 between the Mayans and all “whites” were long and violent wars. The Mayans very nearly took over the entire peninsula, but they were pushed back into the jungle where they established the city of Chan Santa Cruz and were relatively independent for over fifty years. Because of this conflict, very little colonial architecture remains standing.

Dictator Porfirio Díaz brought the situation under control by dispersing the indigenous rebels and establishing the state of Quintana Roo in 1902, although even the establishment of the state was later contested.

Cancun itself was selected as the site for an international resort in the late 1960s by a as part of President Echeverria’s tourism program. (Some say that a computer program selected the site.) The Cancun project (to build a tourism zone, a residential area, and a nearby airport) was approved in 1969, but development began in the 1970s. Cancun rapidly became a large and very dynamic city. By 1976, the city had 18,000 inhabitants. Six years later, it had 70,000 inhabitants. Currently there are more than 500,000 inhabitants and it seems that the city will continue to grow and prosper.

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