Isla Mujeres has a long rich history which traces back to the times of the Ancient Mayans (around 564-1516 A.D.) when it was known as Ekab. The island was a sanctuary dedicated to the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, the Goddess of love, fertility, and medicine. For Mayans, the island was very important because it was the last place to find salt on route to the Gulf of Honduras. Salt was an indispensable element, not only to conserve the meat and medicine, it was also used as an object of commerce or exchange. It could be found in the lagoons in large quantities.
Some believe the island got its name "Isla Mujeres" (The Island of Women) from the Spanish in 1517, when Francisco Hernandez Cordova, a slave trader traveling from Cuba, discovered the island. He was looking for new lands where silver and gold could be found and a local population that could be enslaved to work in the mines. He found no inhabitants, only temples, ruins, some gold artifacts and statues of naked and pregnant women (the Goddess Ixchel and her daughters and daughter-in-law, Ixchebeliax, Ixhunie and Ixhunieta). It is highly possible that Isla Mujeres got its name from the female statues.