From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cancún (pronounced as IPA: [kanˈkun]) is a coastal city in Mexico's easternmost state, Quintana Roo, on the Yucatán Peninsula. Cancun is located on the Yucatan Channel that separates Mexico from the island of Cuba in the Greater Antilles. The Cancun region is sometimes known as the Mexican Caribbean.
Cancun is the municipal seat of the Benito Juárez municipality and a world-renowned tourist resort. The city centre is located on the mainland which connects the Nichupté and Bojórquez lagoons to a narrow "7" shaped island where the modern beachfront hotels are located. The island of Isla Mujeres is located off the coast and is accessible by boat from Puerto Juarez.
The older section of the city, known as "El Centro" follows the original master plan, consists of neighborhoods called "supermanzanas" (superblocks) that are formed by the intersections of the boulevards and traffic circles (roundabouts). This area is characterized by winding streets with culs-de-sac that tend to keep out the main flow of traffic, including market places such Xel Ha. They usually have one or more parks, green spaces, paseos (pedestrian walkways) and various national historical monuments.
Ave. Tulum is the main north-south artery (connecting downtown to the airport some 30 km (19 mi) to south). Tulum is bisected by Ave. Coba (pronounced Koh bah). East of Ave. Tulum, Coba becomes Ave. Kukulcan which serves as the primary road that runs through the long "7" shaped hotel zone. Ave. Tulum is terminated on the north side by Ave. Paseo José López Portillo which connects to the main highway to Chichen Itza and Merida. Another major north-south road is Ave. Bonampak which runs roughly parallel to Ave. Tulum. The main ferry to Isla Mujeres is located off Bonampak.
The original master plan was repeatedly modified, and on the mainland, often ignored. To save on the cost of installing sewage systems and other public services, the design of much of the rest of the city reverted to the grid plan after Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. The newest upper-middle-class residential areas reflect the original plan, but are much less intimate. Less expensive developments are comprised almost entirely of identical one- or two-story small row-houses, sometimes built around interior plazas. Almost all buildings on the mainland are below four stories high.
Originally known as Ekab ("Black Earth"), what is now the northern district of the state of Quintana Roo
was thickly populated by people who spoke the language now known as Maya
when the Spanish arrived, according to the conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo
. In the years after the Conquest, most of the population died off or left as a result of disease, warfare, piracy, and other famines, leaving only small settlements on Isla Mujeres and Cozumel Island.
The city of Cancún resulted from a 1967 study by Banco de México to determine the feasibility of capturing more dollars and other foreign exchange through tourism development. Although the story goes that Cancún was picked by a computer, it was actually selected after extensive research and exploration by the bank's researchers. Banco de México obtained a $27 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to install the first infrastructure. When development was started on Jan. 23, 1970, Isla Cancún had only three residents, caretakers of the coconut plantation of don José de Jesús Lima, who lived on Isla Mujeres, and there were only 117 people living in nearby Puerto Juárez, a fishing village and military base.
"Due to the reluctance of investors to bet on an unknown area, the Mexican government had to finance the first nine hotels." The first hotel financed was the Cancun Caribe (now a Hyatt hotel), but the first hotel actually built was the Playa Blanca, which later became a Blue Bay hotel, and is now Temptation Resort. The entire project was master-planned, with the island (soon connected to the mainland by causeways) devoted almost exclusively to tourism facilities, while workers housing and service areas were located on the mainland in what became the city of Cancún.
The city has grown rapidly over the past thirty years to become a city of approximately 600,000 residents, covering the former island and the nearby mainland. Most 'cancunenses' here are from Yucatán and other Mexican states. A growing number are from the rest of America and Europe. The municipal authorities have struggled to provide public services for the constant influx of people, as well as to control squatters and irregular developments, which now occupy an estimated ten to fifteen percent of the mainland area on the fringes of the city.
There are about 150 hotels in Cancún with more than 24,000 rooms and 380 restaurants. Four million visitors arrive each year in an average of 190 flights daily. The Hotel Zone of Cancun is shaped like a 7 with bridges on each end connecting to the mainland. Hotels on the vertical or long side of the 7 tend to have rougher beaches and beach erosion can be a problem. Resorts on the horizontal or short end of the seven tend to have more gentle surf because the waves here are blocked by the island of Isla Mujeres which lies just off shore. The Hotel Zone offers a broad range of accommodations, ranging from relatively inexpensive motel-style facilities in the older section closest to the mainland, to high-priced luxury hotels in the later sections, great malls, theme parks and swimming with dolphins activity.
On the opposite side of the island from the Caribbean Sea is the Nichupté Lagoon, which is used for boating excursions and jet-ski jungle tours.
Cancun is also the gateway to the Riviera Maya, another tourist pole in the area, where people go attracted by the numerous archaeological sites, as Coba and Tulum, the many cenotes, the ecological parks as Xcaret and charming towns as Playa del Carmen.
The temperature of the city is warm and tropical, moderated by the marine breezes created by onshore trade-winds, which circulates through its avenues. Depending on the season, maximum temperatures range from 26 °C (78.8 °F) in January to 32 °C (90 °F) in July and August, and between 18 °C (64.4 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) at night. Temperature extremes have ranged between a maximum of 39.5 °C (103.2 °F) and a minimum of 8.5 °C (47.4 °F) at the Airport, which is 5 km (3.1 mi) inland south end of the city. More temperate conditions occur from November to February and it is hottest from April to September, due to proximity to the Caribbean and Gulf humidity is high all-year around, especially so during Hurricane Season (averages close to 70% on rain free days).
The tropical storm season lasts from May to December, the rainy season extends into January with peak precipitation in September. February to early May tend to be drier with only occasional scattered showers. Although large hurricanes are rare, they have struck near to Cancun in recent years, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 being the largest and almost twenty years ago, Hurricane Gilbert made a devastating direct hit on Cancún in September 1988.
Mayan Archaeological Sites
There are some (relatively) small Mayan vestiges of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in Cancún. Ruinas El Rey are located in the Hotel Zone. El Meco, a more substantial site, is found on the mainland just outside the city limits on the road to Punta Sam.
Very close, in the Riviera Maya and the Grand Costa Maya, there are impressive sites such as Cobá and Muyil (Riviera) the small Polé (now Xcaret), and Kohunlich, Kinichná, Dzibanché, Oxtankah, Tulum, and Chacchoben, in the south of the state.
In the neighbor state of Yucatán is located impressive Chichen Itza.
Although Cancún is better known as a travel and tourism destination, in recent years some colleges and universities have been offering higher educations to both Mexican and foreign students.
The first higher education institution established in the area was the Instituto Tecnológico de Cancún. Some other followed such as Universidad La Salle Cancún, Universidad Anahuac Cancún, Universidad Tecnológica de Cancún, Universidad del Caribe, and more recently the Universidad Interamericana para el Desarrollo and the Tec Milenium.
Cancún is located in one of the main Caribbean hurricane impact areas, but since it was founded it has received direct hits from only two major hurricanes, Gilbert (1988) and Wilma (2005). In both cases, federal, state and municipal authorities were well-prepared to deal with most of the effects on tourists and local residents. After Wilma, emergency plans were modified to rectify areas of weak performance. Among other improvements, a new hurricane-proof traffic light system was installed throughout the city and Hotel Zone. To avoid having tourists wind up in uncomfortable situations in public shelters, authorities asked tourism operators to suspend sending tourists to Cancun when Hurricane Dean approached, and encouraged airlines to send empty planes, which were then used to evacuate tourists. Most recently, remnants from Tropical Storm Olga caused some localized flooding on December 14, 2007.
Although the eye of Hurricane Dean landed 190 miles (310 km) to the south of Cancun, fierce winds at the outside of its impact cone stripped some of the sand off 7.5 miles (12.1 km) of beach from Punta Cancun (Camino Real Hotel) to Punta Nizuc (Club Med), reports Virginia Prospero in Novedades de Quintana Roo.