Friday, March 26, 2010

The History of Puerto Morelos

This article, "Puerto Morelos: Yesterday, Today, and Forever..." is re-printed with the permission of The Puerto Morelos Tourist Guide.  The article was originally featured, in two parts, in the Puerto Morelos Tourist Guide editions printed in 2008.


By: Ale Gaxiola

“Quintana Roo is a promised land for those who are willing to dedicate their passionate efforts to her.” Gutierrez Tibón, in his book “Adventures in México”, Chapter Praise to Quintana Roo, 1955.

Archeological evidence has demonstrated that Puerto Morelos belonged to the Old province of EK-KAB (means Black Bee), one of the seventeen districts of the numerous Mayan territory (1250-1541 A.D.).

In the coastal zone of today’s Puerto Morelos existed two Mayan structures, their stones were used to build the leaning lighthouse, next to the Fishermen’s Pier.

During many centuries the Spanish galleons would sail along the coast of Quintana Roo. Historians mention the sea routes along the southern territory, from Isla Mujeres to Tulum and even as far as Chetumal Bay.

Any merchant vessels were shipwrecked among the reefs at Puerto Morelos, their treasures have been lost in the bottom of the Caribbean and it could be a strange and wonderful adventure to be able to discover them.

The Puerto Morelos modern history begins in 1898, when the Colonizadora de la Costa Oriental of the Yucatan Company was founded to exploit and farm the agricultural and forest products from the surrounding jungles.

In 1900, Puerto Morelos was referred to as “Punta Corcho”, and it was chosen as a natural harbor that could offer safety to navigation, good depth and protection because of the natural reef barrier.

On November 24th, 1902, President Porfirio Díaz decrees the creation of the Territory of Quintana Roo, and then Puerto Morelos was under the political administration of the Isla Mujeres Municipality.

Around the year 1904, Puerto Morelos boasted a Post Office to communicate correspondence with Cozumel and even as far as Puerto Progreso in the neighboring State of Yucatan, and from there to the rest of the country.

The first population census was done in 1910, with a result of 76 persons (41 male and 35 female). In this year, the Port was the only coastal community with telephone and postal service. 

In 1921, the population greatly diminished due to an influenza epidemic which was recorded as very severe, and the census reported just 28 inhabitants (18 males and 10 females).

In Puerto Morelos, in the year 1923, the “Colonia Santa María Company” built warehouses to store mainly gum, which was harvested in the surrounding jungles. This gave the Puertomorelenses great economic strength.

Around the year 1929, the Puerto was already considered a town, with wooden houses built in a single lane along the coastal street and a pier for fishermen. Today you can find the Pelicanos Restaurant in this same spot.

In 1931, President Ortiz Rubio decreed that the Territory of Quintana Roo would belong to the States of Campeche and Yucatan. There was much administrative confusion, and as a result there are few records during these years, but with President Cardenas the Territory of Quintana Roo is once again established in 1935.

On February 1929, the 55 inhabitants founded the “Ejido Puerto Morelos”, with a Presidential grant of 21,420 hectares of jungle. Now the Puertomorelenses could farm and exploit their own land and the economy grew faster than ever. The 1950 census showed a population of 80 inhabitants (43 males and 37 females.)

During the fifties, the growth of Puerto Morelos spread to the jungle areas (two kilometers inland from the coast) because migrations of people from the Yucatan and foreign countries. 

With the beginning of Cancún as a resort destination in 1970, the demand for a labor force was greatly increased, and because of the proximity of Puerto Morelos to this new resort, a slow growth in the residential area known as “Colonia Joaquín Cetina Gazca” began.

In 1971, the “First of June Fishing High School” was founded, and today it trains youngsters as fishing technicians.

In the Decree of 1974, Quintana Roo becomes a free and sovereign state with seven municipalities. Puerto Morelos is established as a part of the Benito Juárez municipality with Cancún as it’s most important city.
Puerto Morelos has been visited many times by researchers. In 1978, The Fishing Ministry creates the Aquaculture Research Center, to study turtles.

The Research Center of Quintana Roo (CIQROO) was established in 1979, to do investigations for the proper development of Quintana Roo. In 1980, The Institute of Oceanography from UNAM University opens its doors in Puerto Morelos researching marine habitats, due mainly to the great international importance of The Arrecife de Puerto Morelos National Park.

On December 2nd of 1981, “The Puerto Morelos Cooperative for Fishing Production” is inaugurated with the goal of doing controlled exploitation of lobster fishing. Urban land lots were assigned to it next to the “Colonia de Pescadores”. Around this time, and under the Federal Government Administration, the “Alfredo Barrera Marin” Botanical Garden was founded. It is sanctuary to the Mayan jungle “Yaax-ché”.

Since the 1990’s Puerto Morelos has had a balanced growth. People from all over Mexico and many other countries have made it their home. Several public schools have opened, and in 1995 the “Mauricio Sánchez Jimenez” library was founded.

On February 2nd 1998, a Federal Decree gives the Puerto Morelos reef the status of Protected Natural Area. It is home to a wonderful and rich submarine life and it plays an important role in tourist and fishing activities.

In Puerto Morelos you can find the only ecological crocodile farm and native zoo in the region; “Crococun”, where visitors can see from very close the natural habitat of these prehistoric animals. It opens daily from 9am to 5pm.

At Central Vallarta the “Verde Lucero Cenote” and some time later the “Tres Bocas Cenote” and the “Boca de Puma Cenote” are inaugurated. These natural sinkholes are only part of what visitors to the “Cenote Route” can enjoy. There are more than ten of these around the area. Some, like “Selvatica” and “Boca del Puma” also have zip lines, bike trails and other services for the tourist.

From the year 2000, the neighboring cities of Cancún and Playa del Carmen develop rapidly into internationally known tourist destinations. Also in Puerto Morelos, but to a lesser degree, we see some tourist projects develop, since we are also part of The Mexican Caribbean and The Mayan Riviera.

Today Puerto Morelos offers the visitors all the comforts that the most exclusive tourist is looking for. Hotels with a five star rating as well as quaint family hostels have been built where tourists can expect the best service. There is now an accelerated touristic development and growth. Many efforts are being taken to coordinate all expansion projects and to ensure that natural protected areas are not trampled so this precious jewel is well taken care of.

Puerto Morelos has around 5,000 inhabitants, miles of beautiful and deserted beaches protected by the reef, so all visitors can enjoy them safely.

  • Diario Oficial de la Fedración.
  • Merino, M. 1991 “Atlas Ambiental Costero”.
  • Dachary, César A. y Arnaiz Buerne S.M. “El Caribe Mexicano”.
  • J. Eric S. Thompson. “Grandeza y Decadencia de los Mayas”.
  • Instituto Nal. De Ecología. “Conservación y uso sustentable de los arrecifes de México”.
  • Anécdotas y comentarios de la comunidad de Puerto Morelos
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