PLAZA OF THE ENCOUNTER OF THE TWO CULTURES AND MONUMENT “500 YEARS AFTER THE FIRST MASS IN MEXICO”.

VÁZQUEZ Y SEÑORIÑO, JUAN RAMÓN (2023). NOTES AND RESEARCH – INFORMATION GATHERED BY THE DIRECTORATE OF TOURISM AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF COZUMEL IN AN INTERVIEW WITH MAESTRO CARLOS TERRÉS.

Jesuit Father Mariano Cuevas, S.J., Doctor in Historical Sciences by the Gregorian University and author of “History of the Church in Mexico”, points out according to his research, on Thursday May 6, 1518 on the island of Cozumel the first mass was celebrated in Mexican territory when the expedition of Juan de Grijalva, who was the nephew of the Governor of Cuba Diego de Velázquez, while exploring the coasts of Yucatán carried out this important event for the history of Mexico and for the Catholic faith.

The monument is practically a “Monument to the First Mass” on the island of Cozumel, it is a beautiful sculptural group in bronze and stone elaborated by the sculptor and painter Carlos Terrés. 

In this impressive sculptural group there are several representative figures of a spectacular theme, the continental and daily dawn, the Mayan cultural illumination to the rest of the cultures of the continent, the entrance of the sun’s rays to the American land in its Mexican part through the island of Cozumel and the entrance of the Hispanic culture through that same magical and syncretic place.  

Master Terrés created in bronze these works that are witnesses of the encounter of two cultures, where he highlights the tolerance and understanding of the acceptance of the different, sending a message of fraternity and cooperation.

The sculpture of Juan de Grijalva y Cuellar, discoverer of Yucatán, is presented by Terrés with his command stick taking possession of the lands “…and property and real and corporal lordship of that Cozumel and its annexes and lands and seas of the rest that belongs or could belong…” (Oviedo, lib. XVII, chap. IX). 

Later, Friar Bartolomé de Olmedo, a Mercedarian priest who officiated the first mass in Mexican territory, appears in the scene, attended by natives of the Mayan culture represented by a mother and her daughter;  the girl carrying fish, symbol of the natural and fresh origin of the Mayan culture, and the woman dressed as the goddess Ixchel, wife of Itzamná, goddess of medicine and childbirth, the one who protects those who will soon be born, the inventor of weaving, spinning, the one who gives the attire, through her one is born to life. As a symbol of this, she carries a basket of fruits. The chronicles tell that they were admired that “…the people dressed so luxuriously because they had white and colored cotton shirts and blankets, plumages, tendrils and gold jewelry and the women covered their chests and heads…” (Torquemada lib. IV, cap. III).

There is also the figure of an old man, who carries in his hands a pot of fragrant perfumes, carrying a fan at his waist, symbol of his rank. It represents a priest who wears on his face a half mask of skin that goes down from the ears to the beard, in his neck he wears a necklace of jade beads that ends in a mask with the glyph of ahau-lord. The chronicles tell that: “…he was an old man, his toes were cut off and he made incense a lot… saying a chant in loudspeaker… giving some reeds that burning them gave off a soft smell…”. 

The works of the sculptural ensemble modeled by the master Carlos Terrés, Mexican recognized for his paintings and sculptures inspired by the cultural and anthropological reality of his country, leaves these works of art enveloped with a mysterious poetry of the authentic, of the richness found in the history of the island of Cozumel. 

For the rest of the current Mexican Republic, the monument “Five Hundred Years after the First Mass in Mexico” in the “Plaza del Encuentro de las Dos Culturas”, masterfully crafted by sculptor Terrés, is a modern-day witness of the rich and ancestral roots that in a portentous and dramatic encounter gave birth to one of the greatest cultures, THE MEXICAN.

Dirección de Turismo y Desarrollo Económico

Altos de Plaza del Sol
Col. Centro
Cozumel, QROO MX


Tel. +52 1 987 86 90 212 turismo@cozumel.gob.mx