The proper derivation of the word Yucatán is widely debated. Hernan Cortes, in the first of his letters to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, claimed that the name Yucatán comes from a misunderstanding. In this telling, the first Spanish explorers asked what the area was called and the response they received, “Yucatan,” was a Yucatec Maya word meaning “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Others claim that the source of the name is the Nahuatl (Aztec) word Yokatlān, “place of richness.
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The Yucatán Peninsula comprises a significant proportion of the ancient Maya Lowlands (although the Maya culture extended south of the Yucatán Peninsula, through present Guatemala and into Honduras and highland Chiapas). There are many Maya archaeological sites throughout the peninsula; some of the better-known are Chichen Itza, Tulum and Uxmal. Indigenous Maya and Mestizos of partial Maya descent make up a sizable portion of the region’s population, and Mayan languages are widely spoken there.
Located in the beautiful crystal waters surrounding Cancun and Isla Mujeres in Mexico, the stunning underwater museum – Museo Subacuatico de Arte alias MUSA is among the most unusual scuba diving sites in the world.
[caption id="attachment_18884" align="aligncenter" width="800"] CANCUN, MEXICO – JANUARY 31: ***EXCLUSIVE*** Hombre en Llamas (Man on Fire) depicts a lone figure standing upright and defiant. The sculpture is installed 8m deep in the clear Caribbean waters surrounding the island of Isla Mujeres at a location named Manchiones. The cement figure has been drilled with over 75 holes and is currently being planted with live cuttings of fire coral (Millepora alcicorni). January 31, 2005. Deep under the seas of the Mexican Caribbean these statues look like relics of an ancient civilisation. Located in the National Marine Park, on the west coast of Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc, it will be the world’s largest undetwater sculpture museum. Showing three life size sculptures are the first of 400 that will be laid on the seabed over the next 13 months. Founded by Jaime Gonzalez Cano of The National Marine Park, Roberto Diaz of The Cancun Nautical Association and renowned British underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, the underwater museum is designed to celebrate the Mayan history of the region and act as an artificial reef. (Photo by Jason de Caires / Barcroft Media / Getty Images)[/caption]
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In the late historic and early modern eras, the Yucatán Peninsula was largely a cattle ranching, logging, chicle and henequen production area. Since the 1970s (and the fall of the world henequen and chicle markets due to the advent of synthetic substitutes), the Yucatán Peninsula has reoriented its economy towards tourism, especially in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Once a small fishing village, Cancún in the northeast of the peninsula has grown into a thriving city. The Riviera Maya, which stretches along the east coast of the peninsula between Cancún and Tulum, houses over 50,000 beds. The best-known locations are the former fishing town of Playa del Carmen, the ecological parks Xcaret and Xel-Há and the Maya ruins of Tulum and Coba.
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