Some background info about Cancún

The city of Cancún in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo is all around the media these days, being the location where the COP16/CMP16 – the United Nations Climate Change Conference – takes place this year. Cancún is also famous as a touristic site as it is the center of the Riviera Maya, to which people from all countries come to make holidays. To make it a bit understandable for the Europeans amongst my readers: It is often compared to Mallorca and Ibiza. However, I want to give some pieces of background information about Cancún in this post.

Until the 50s Cancún and the area around was barely touched by civilization. All that you could have found there were ancient ruins and some villages of fishermen. That changed end of the 60s, when the government decided to build a counter pole to the very famous and successful Acapulco, this time in the southwest. It obviously worked, as Cancún nowadays has around 1,000,000 inhabitants.

Part of the ruins of Nizuc/Cancún
picture: taisau/flickr.com/cc-by-nc-sa

Of special interest for us are the ruins and the name. The ruins are not very large in size and unfortunately not as good preserved as ones close in Tulum. In ancient times the place was known as Nizuc. The name Cancún is first mentioned in the 18th century. If we, how it is widely done, assume, that Cancún has a Maya origin (Yucatec Maya), then there are several possibilities. Mostly it’s translated and published as nest of the snake. As war as I can say, at least one part in that is wrong.

Nest of the snake would be Kaan K’u’ in Yucatec Maya and even though it sounds similar, I think, we have a wrong interpretation here. Cun or Cúm sounds too different to be K’u’, nest. It could be also K’u then, which means pyramid. That we really have to do it with a snake here is possible, as we can find many depictions of snake ideology in the ruins around Cancún. Other possible translations include throne of the snake, place of the Golden snake and many more. My guess is that we will never find out, how Cancún originated. It could as well be a mistradition of church of the snake, Kaan K’unaaj. Even the experts don’t know, but that doesn’t interest the mainstream media much. Now you, my dear readers, know better.

Coat of Arms of the municipality Benito Juarez where Cancún is located

Another interesting point about Cancún is the coat of arms of the municipality Benito Juárez (yes, that Benito Juárez) in which Cancún is located. It has the form of a ring and resembles the ring on Maya ballcourts. The closest ball court can be found in Tulum, ruins that are a lot more famous and substantially bigger than Nizuc.

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