Mystic Ruins of San Gervasio
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Mystic Ruins of San Gervasio
Explore the mysteries of these ancient Maya ruins...

Four fingered handprints on the temple walls. Apparitional processions of worshipers dressed in white. An altar set to the four directions of the compass, without a compass available. And finally, reports of Mayan chanting heard in the nighttime hours.

The mystic pull of the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio in Cozumel is strong -- so strong that women still go there to make offerings to the Ix Chel, the Maya goddess of fertility -- just as they did hundreds of years ago.

In those ancient times, the women would have to risk their lives crossing the dangerous channel from the mainland in open boats propelled by oarsmen, and then take the same risk on their return voyage.

According to markers at the site, Diego de Landa, the bishop of Yucatán, wrote in 1549 that the Maya "held Cozumel in the same veneration as we have for pilgrimages to Jerusalem and Rome, and so they used to go to visit and offer presents there, as we do to holy places; and if they did not go themselves, they always sent their offerings."

So, while the ruins at San Gervasio may not be as grand as some of those on the mainland, it was of much more significance to the Mayan culture. Perhaps that significance, and the energy the Maya put into building and maintaining this site, explains the aura of mystery that continues to surround it in modern times.

The Mysterious Destinations Team has visited the ruins at San Gervasio several times, first on a three-day exploration of the island in 2011 and then again with a larger team as part of their cruise-based Western Caribbean Expedition in 2012. (If you are interested in joining us on our next cruise-based expedition, click here to go to Contact Us page and send us a note. We’ll keep you updated by e-mail.)

Following are some of the discoveries we made while exploring the Mystic Ruins of San Gevasio.

Four Fingered Handprints

Even before our first visit to San Gervasio we had been told by an earlier visitor to count the fingers on the handprints there. Most of these handprints are found at a structure located directly in front of the park entrance known as “Las Manitas”, meaning “Little Hands” temple.

According to information at the park site, Las Manitas was the residence of the Al Huneb, or the Mayan overlord of Cozumel. It has an outer room that was his residence and an inner sanctum that was his personal shrine. The name of the building comes from the previously mentioned, red-colored handprints on the walls, which were made by visitors as a way of “signing in”.

It is these handprints, as well as others at structures throughout the site, that caught our attention. While there are many showing all fingers and thumb, there are many that appear to be missing the thumb. The missing thumb is important because other handprints at the site are not missing any fingers -- just the thumbs. If the missing thumb was due to the effects of weather, then logically we would have found handprints missing fingers as well. However, after careful inspection, the team was unable to find any handprints with a completely missing digit (or digits) except for those missing a thumbprint.

Of course this leads to speculation about the missing thumbprints… Were they the product four-fingered Maya? Did some Maya purposely obscure their thumbprint, and if so, for what reason? Or, more ominously, did some four-fingered non-human entity leave the handprints? There has been much speculation about Mayan contact with extra-terrestrials, were these handprints evidence of that contact?

For our first step, we needed to get close enough to the handprints to measure them and confirm that they were either consistent or inconsistent with Mayan hand size. This would tend to either support or reduce the possibility of an outer space connection.

During our first visit, we were unable to cross the perimeter ropes to accomplish this, but during the Western Caribbean Expedition we were able to negotiate with one of the park employees to cross the perimeter with a forensic measure we provided and obtain a small sampling of measurements. Compared with the hand of a modern day Maya, the prints were a reasonable match, thus supporting the probability that the prints were left by humans.

We then sought other possibilities. The park employees firmly believed that weathering had caused the thumbprint anomalies. However, as mentioned earlier, the Mysterious Destinations Team felt that weathering would have affected other digits on the handprints as well, and this wasn’t the case at San Gervasio.

Without additional evidence or the ability to investigate them further on site, it was impossible to arrive at any clear conclusions regarding the four-fingered handprints of San Gervasio. However, an interesting theory was put forth by author and paranormal researcher John Kachuba, who visited San Gervasio in January 2013.

Kachuba noted that the Maya gave great importance to the four directions of the compass, as reflected in the Altar structure at San Gervasio (see article below). Perhaps, he reflected, the four-fingered handprints were representative of this importance as well. Perhaps some Maya “signed in” while purposely obscuring their thumbprints as a sign of respect for the earth’s four compass directions.

The Mysterious Destinations Team is interested in following up on their investigation by locating four-fingered handprints at other Maya ruins. If there are readers who know of such locations, please click here to contact us.

Apparitional Processions & Chanting in the Night

Apparitions of Maya and chanting in the night are manifestations reported throughout the island of Cozumel, but the reports from San Gervasio are some of the most compelling. Perhaps this is because of the enormous spiritual attachment the Maya still have for this site.

The report of the apparitional procession is particularly compelling in that we have it from a second-hand witness, and it describes what an actual Maya procession to the Las Manitas structure would have looked like, and the path it would have taken.

The report was described by one of the guides at the temple, who heard the story from the primary witness, who was employed as a night watchman at the park.

According to the guide, the watchman was experiencing a lonely and boring night at the park, so much so that he drifted off to sleep. He awoke to the sound of a low murmuring, and upon looking about, he saw a line of people dressed in white proceeding down a stone pathway through the park in an easterly direction from the area of the Ossuary structure (where numerous human remains were found) toward the Las Manitas structure.

The watchman described the size of the group as near 100, and insisted that while they looked strange and out of place, they still looked like human beings.

As he shook off the sleep, the watchman headed toward the group of “trespassers” to eject them from the premises. He was just close enough to call out to them, when suddenly the whole group seemed suddenly drawn through the air into the Manitas structure (where the most compelling of the four-fingered handprints are found), according to the watchman.

The sound of ancient chants wafting through the night air is a fairly common occurrence on Cozumel, according to numerous reports. San Gervasio is no different, except for the fact that the witnesses – usually night watchmen – have remarkable access to a site that is totally lacking in any other human presence. Perhaps they are hearing voices from beyond, or perhaps it is just a playful group of “Alux” (pronounced “aloosh”) – the island’s mischievous little people. (For our report about the Alux “Little People, Major Attitude” click here.)

Points of the Compass at The Altar

El Altar” (The Altar) is located in a central part San Gervasio that features a single stairway going up a square, flat-topped structure that rises about 3-feet off the ground. (See a photo in the image bar on the left of this page.) According to information at the site, El Altar served as a dais from which a speaker could address a surrounding crowd.

Our guide was quick to point out another aspect of El Altar… Its four sides align exactly with the four points of the compass. (We confirmed this with our own compass on site.) The exact meaning of this position may be lost to time, but it once again indicates the importance to Maya of the earth’s four directions, and the importance of the number four to the Maya.


Like the rest of Cozumel, many aspects of the San Gervasio ruins are a mystery that began with the Maya and remain today.

San Gervasio is included in many of the tours that operate from cruise ships on the island. It is relatively close to San Miguel, about halfway across the island on the main mid-island road Carretera Tranversal (Cross Island Road). The dirt road is unnamed, but is at kilometer 7.5 on Carretera Tranversal. All of that is a good reason to charter a cab, take a tour, or hire a local driver otherwise.

Services on-site at San Gervasio include: bilingual guides, snack bar, bookstore, handicraft stores, parking and restrooms. There are different admission prices depending on whether you’ll be self-guiding or hiring one of the on-site guides. (We always recommend the guided tour… Guides tell better stories and answer questions, while information plaques do not.) Operation Hours are 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. Monday through Sunday. There is an extra charge for using a video camera.