While Cancun may be famous for its sea, sand and blue skies, there are some things that most visitors and even many locals do not know about this sun kissed city; stories, secrets, and hidden places that are not public knowledge. So here we present for you the first five of our ten facts that you can impress your friends with next time you visit our shores.
1. Cancun is an island
Despite being an internationally renowned tourist destination few visitors realise that Cancun’s hotel zone is in fact an island. The 17 mile strip is connected to mainland Cancun by two bridges at either end; Calinda bridge (next to the Grand Oasis Palm hotel) in the north and Nizuc bridge in the south. So next time you plan your trip, you can confuse your friends by telling them you’ll be visiting the island of Cancun.
2. Cancun is only 45 years old
Only 45 years ago the 17 miles of hotels, restaurants, and malls that make up Cancun’s hotel zone never existed, and nor did the city that each day gets closer to the one million inhabitants mark. In this short space of time Cancun has transformed itself from wilderness into one of the world’s most popular destinations. Today Cancun not only offers sun drenched beaches and tropical cocktails (not that there is anything wrong with either of those), but has become an important hub for both business and culture; a cosmopolitan city that keeps its Caribbean charm.
3. The first airport in Cancun was built by chewing gum makers
On the road that connects Cancun to Playa del Carmen by the roundabout where Avenida Kabah meets the Colosio, a wooden monument of a control tower, you will find the location of the first airport in Cancun. Here an improvised runway was built to transport the sap of the chicozapote, also known as the chewing gum tree that was more prominently found at the time. It is said that this runway was also used to transport contraband.
4. Quintana Roo state and its sticky past
The origins of modern day chewing gum are closely linked to the state of Quintana Roo. The story goes that during ex Mexican president Santa Anna’s exile in New York he met American scientist Thomas Adams. A conversation they had on finding a cheaper, more elastic and more resistant material to use as carriage tyres led Santa Anna to propose using the sap of the chicozapote tree. After much testing, the sap was deemed not resistant enough. However, like many other famous inventions that were by-products of their original intentions, chewing gum was born.
Its success came when this sap was commercialised in the Unites States as a mouth hygiene product, with sugar and flavourings later added. So now you know, next time you’re chewing a piece of gum that its origins came from the woods of sunny Cancun.
5. The Masterplan
The architects Enrique and Agustin Landa Verdugo, and Javier Solorzano were given the task of designing Cancun. Their plans divided the city into three parts; the hotel zone, the city centre, and the airport. Those that have visited Mercado 28 or any other place of interest in the city centre may have noticed that Cancun is separated into sections. The city centre takes on the form of manzanas or blocks. Several of these manzanas clustered together make up supermanzanas; these supermanzanas are then connected to main roads.
Like many pre-planned cities, its original, clear layout has been gradually replaced by natural growth which has created a labyrinth of new roads and paths that are a delight to walk down. Here you will come across little independent shops and food establishments that are hidden from the crowds and that may very well provide you with the best food you’ve eaten in Cancun.
We hope that you have enjoyed the first five of ten facts that you may not know about Cancun and that you have learnt something new about our city. Look out for part two which we will be publishing soon!