AOL Travel

Cancun History

In 1969 the Mexican government signed off on a plan to create an ambitious new tourist resort area at the northwest tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, on what’s known as the Mexican Caribbean. At the time it was an area of deserted beaches and mangroves occupied by scattered fishing villages and a small port, Puerto Juarez, with around 100 citizens. No one knows when “Cancun” became the name of the area--in historic records it’s been called Kan Kun, which can be translated from the Maya as “Nest of Snakes.” Or possibly “Enchanted Snakes.” You see the problem. Cancun had to be built from scratch—not just the resorts, but an entire city had to be built for workers, along with an international airport with runways long enough for long-haul jets. In just over 35 years since the first few hotels opened their doors, Cancun's population has reached approximately 600,000. Those early government-backed hotels have been joined by international resort chains. Development has begun to the north, and in the last 10 years, the “Mayan Riviera,” stretching from Cancun south to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, has seen unrelenting development. In the history of planned tourist destinations (most of which turn out to be nightmares), Cancun is a major success story.