About San Miguel, Cozumel

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San Miguel, Cozumel




For many first-timers San Miguel, Cozumel is merely a cruise ship stop or a blur out the taxi window on the way to one of the resorts that cluster on the north and south end of Mexico's largest inhabited island.

Few realize this buzzing little metropolis is a tempting target in its own right. A visit to San Miguel with its safe streets, great food and family-oriented culture offers a remarkable opportunity to experience a vibrant Mexican/Mayan community firsthand.

This cute Mayan Mamacita cartoon is hand-painted on several walls in San Miguel. It urges housewives to go back to school and finish their education
Right, Mexicans aren't afraid of strong colors and Cozumelenos are no exception! LEFT,Although plenty of taxis whiz through the streets at all hours, the car is not king in San Miguel. In fact, most Cozumelenos favor bikes, motorscooters or feet instead

The center city is a lively place to live, work and visit. Tailor shops, key makers, produce markets and tiny family-run restaurants intermingle closely with schools, doctor's offices and private residences. In fact, except during siesta hours (roughly 1:30 PM to 4 PM) the streets are full of people from morning until long after dark.

Right,a typical scene outside San Miguel's Mercado (downtown market) where family and friends meet and visit as they pick over produce, & buy recado balls, epozote & helados

Most Sunday nights towns-people crowd the large, downtown plaza with its whitewashed framboyan trees, gazebo, tall clock tower and cooling views of the sea. They come to giggle and flirt, to listen to music salsa, to dance. Parents show off carefully groomed and dressed-up children and older folks sit on one of the many cools, stone benches chatting softly in Mayan and keeping a sharp eye on the scene.

Photo left by Don Householder shows the pretty downtown gazebo at the center of Cozumel's main plaza and the focal point of many community gatherings and celebrations.

Although Avenida Raphael Melgar, the waterfront road and promenade is often thronging with cruise ship passengers and day-trippers from the mainland, you need only wander a few blocks inland to discover a different, mellower world. Here riots of pink or purple bougainvillea tumble down over bright-pastel walls, church bells toll and children laugh and play soccer in the streets until long after dark.

Left, Cozumel's history is a rich mixture of Mayan and Spanish heritage The Colonial Spanish influence is never more evident than in the high-walled courtyards that enclose gardens and shut out the noise of the street outside.


Right,This adorable niño photographed in Plaza del Sol is more dressed up than usual because it's carnival week. But parents pull out the stops most Sunday nights in the plaza and the niños are typically dressed to the nines and looking adorable.

San Miguel is a a food lover's paradise, too. Stores sell fresh yogurt laced with walnuts, crystallized limes and sour orange juice squeezed while you wait. Up on Avenida 30, five blocks from the waterfront, there's whole, mesquite-cooked chickens to be had.

And the Mercado market on 25th displays enough prime and inexpensive produce to make a vegetarian's heart sing for joy.
Freshly squeezed juices are one of the many interesting treats to be found at El Centro's El Mercado
Right, Street vendors like this ice cream man are common sights on the on the streets of San Miguel.
But the best thing about San Miguel is its people. You'll meet all kinds: stout Mayan housekeepers in embroidered finery, glossy-haired mothers proudly pushing baby prams, sailors strolling with their sweethearts.

Listen for the bread man's clap as he peddles past. He's announcing to the neighborhood that his pan dulce is ready to eat. Or the knife sharpener who plays a haunting tune on his flute as he wheels slowly through the quiet streets

Dignified, merry and kind, Cozumeleños judge you not by what you do for a living, but by who you are as a person. So next time you're in San Miguel, be sure to smile and say "hola" to the people you meet. You may be surprised at how many will reward you with a warm, rich grin in return.

Above Left, Lovely, young Cozumeleño takes a break from street dancing during carnival week to favor our camera with a brilliant smile.
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