Boca Iglesia is situated in the extreme northeast of the Yucatan
Peninsula, 6 kilometers south of Cabo Catoche is found the last
vestiges of what was the village of Ekab which existed as a prosperous
community until the middle of the 17th centure.
The settlement disappeared as a result of constant attacks from
Mayan rebels and pirates of French and English origin.
According to historians of the Spanish conquest, this was the
place where the army of Franciso Herandez de Cordoba
disembarked and became considered the official disdicoverer of
theYucatan and Isla Mujeres, in the first days of
March 1517. The natives of the place convinced the intruders
to visit their homes, but after disembarking, the
discoverers were ambushed and forced to retreat.
The following years of 1518 and 1519, two other expeditions
captained by Juan de Grijalva and Hernan Cortes,
respectively, went by without visiting the place since their
main interest was to find gold, rather than discovering land.
However, the Spanish Crown, pressured by rivals France and England,
allowed Holy Catholic church, in 1519, in a
precipitatous move, to form a papal presence by instituting a
bishop in the place where Hernandez de Cordoba
And so, the Catholic Church, inheritors by divine commandment
of all the lands discovered by its daring marines,
established its power over the territory, without having any
knowledge of its vast surface and of the individuals that
were inhabited the place. The rights and customs of the indegionous
people were subordinated by decree of
Catholicism. Julian Garces was designated as the bishop of the
new church with the holy see of Ekab, today called
Boca Iglesias, but the compassionate clergyman never took physical
possession of his charge, finishing some years
later as bishop of Tlaxcala, where the holy see was moved to,
given the relative seclusion near Cabo Catoche. The
order to build a church in Ekab was completed. The architecture
is one of most medieval style, similar to styles used
by in Spain in times of the crusades against pirates.
Their fences were made in the form of arrows. This can best
be appreciated around the Convent, a building adjacent to
the main church, recognized as a parish for the Indians. To build
these Catholic structures, the pagan temples of the
natives were demolished to provide sufficient material to start
Today, it is possible to see the impressive church belfry from
the sea. A rocky structure that seems to challenge
centuries, the skies, and the predators that are always hunting
the site for lost treasures.
The most relevant episode in the history of Ekab was the attack
that happened in the village in 1571 when the French
pirate Pierre Sanfroy whom with twenty other pirates took the
village by surprise during the holy week of that year.
Intent on extorting the villagers and offending the catholic
religion, he used the altar as his bedroom and damaged fine
ornaments on the walls of the building. Sanfroy was persued by
the Yucatecan government until he was captured in
Cozumel where most of his men died in combat. Sanfroy and 3 of
his men were taken to the Holy Inquisition and
subjected to a long a stifling judgement. Finally, they were
condemned not for the damage caused to the village of
Ekab, but for being rascals and being enemies of the Church.
During the subsequent centuries of colonial times, other settlements
developed in Ekab. Known as Boxchen and Hon
Hon, they were the last communities to occupy the place until
and during the “War of the Castes” according to the
historian Michel Antochiw.
A Brief History of EKAB.
Despite the disappearance of the ancient Mayas, by the 16th Century,
Ekab was thickly populated again. The earliest recorded Spanish
landings on the North American continent took place in Quintana
Roo. In 1511, Gonzalo Guerrero and Jeronimo Aguilar were the
sole survivors of a group of Spaniards who landed at Xcaret and
were taken captive by natives. In 1513, Ponce de Leon came ashore
west of Cabo Catoche, but he returned to Cuba without knowing
where he had been.
The official discovery of the Yucatan Peninsula (and Mexico)
is attributed to Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, who disembarked
at Boca de Iglesia in 1517. This was then the site of Ekab, a
principal town in the province of Ekab, which stretched as far
Tulum. Fifteen natives were killed and fifteen Spanish soldiers
injured. The Spanish took two prisoners.
When Cortés arrived in 1519, Aguilar became his interpreter,
but Guerrero, who had married into a noble Maya family, refused
to be rescued and later fought against the Spaniards. It has
been suggested that Guerrero might have built the wall around
as a defense against invasion. Although some historians have
asserted that Tulum was a watch point toward the sea, the principal
buildings and public spaces are oriented toward the West. You
sometimes see it called the City of the Rising Sun, but it was
more likely the City of the Setting Sun.
One of Cortés' soldiers, Bernal Diaz, later wrote that
the city of Ekab was more populous than Seville. The Spaniards
called it the Grand Cairo, he said. Other historical accounts
mention warehouses filled with fine cotton clothing and spools
of thread of a quality then unknown in Europe. Although the Mayan
scriptures were lost, many Aztec tax records have survived. They
show an abundance of goods. Not until after World War II, did
Mexican food and cotton production surpass these levels.
During the years following the Conquest, most of the Mayas,
who at one time numbered in the millions, died of disease and
starvation. After various expeditions, the Montejo family defeated
the Mayas in 1541 and founded the city of Mérida. One
portion of Quintana Roo held out until 1545 at Bacalar, near
Chetumal, now the state capital. Another group fled to Guatemala,
where they were finally subdued in the 17th Century.
After the early religious and military excesses, life in Yucatan
stabilized under Spanish and mestizo rule. The batabes, leaders
elected by consensus from a more-or-less hereditary ruling class,
were recognized as nobles and were exempted from the taxes
and work-services which the commoners were obligated to provide.
The position was made hereditary, but a bad batab could
be removed by the community. The relatively fluid and more-or-less
democratic traditional style of Mayan government, with its minimal
concepts of private property, was replaced by proto-capitalist
European authoritarian rule.
Following Mexican Independence, Yucatan, which then included
the entire peninsula, declared itself a separate country in 1821.
There were repeated armed conflicts between centralists and federalists.
The rebels were often supplied by the British, and they
enrolled the Mayas in their cause by promising to restore their
lands and privileges.
Instead, the Mayas were subjected to even heavier abuses. The batabes were
forced to legalize land grabs by the white and mestizo Yucatecans.
The Mayan deeds that did exist were called into court for examination.
Like the scriptures, they disappeared.
Most of Isla Mujeres territory remains still unexplored...