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Cancun History

Cancun HistoryIn the early 1950s, Cancún was an almost nothing island just off the Caribbean Sea coast of the Yucatán peninsula, home to three caretakers of a coconut plantation and small Pre-Columbian ruins of the Maya civilization. The government of Mexico decided to develop a tourist resort on Cancún, which was originally financed by a USD $27 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. A causeway was built to link Cancún to the mainland, and an international airport was built, along with what was at first a model city for workers, complete with housing, schools and medical facilities. On the opposite side of the island from the Caribbean Sea is the Nichupte Lagoon, which is used for boat and snorkelling tours of the area.
Although many international publications now spell Cancun as Cancún, in the area itself it is usually Cancún in Spanish and Cancun in English. This is probably a result of the fact that English-language type faces available in the early days of Cancún did not have accented characters, or the operators did not know how to access them because the keyboard codes were different from the ones they were accustomed to using.
The earliest known reference to Cancún called it Cancuen. There's also a site in Guatemala called Cancuen. Cancuen refers to a snake totem, usually identified with Kukulcan or Quetzalcoatl (the Plumed Serpent). The romanization of Mayan words varies, but it is common to use an apostrophe to indicate a kind of glottal stop. It is probable that some Yucatecan or Mexican Mayanist wrote the name as Cancu'en, which was turned into Cancún by someone at the predecessor of Fonatur, the Mexican government tourism development fund that created Cancún. The belief that Cancún means "nido de viboras" (nest of snakes) is modern folklore.
Development of Cancún started in 1970 and grew rapidly in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the original very sensible master plan was repeatedly modified and, on the mainland, often ignored. Siegel, who was the translator of Fernando Martí's "Cancun, Fantasy of Bankers," says that 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, he says.
Despite initial skepticism that forced the Mexican government to finance the first eight hotels, Cancún soon attracted investors from all over the world, but approximately 70% of the Hotel Zone properties are owned by Mexicans, many of them local residents, Siegel says. The figure is close to 100% for the mainland. Some observers believe that the resort is foreign-owned because they are confused by the hotel operating companies, which are international companies that supply administration and marketing services. They do not usually own the hotels themselves. Even outlets of restaurant chains such as McDonald's and Domino's Pizza are Mexican-owned.
The city has grown rapidly over the past thirty years to become a city of approximately 750,000 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.


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