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The Cross of the Bay (La Cruz de la Bahía) in Isla Mujeres

Updated: Apr 28

Cross of the Bay

A few meters to the South of Manchones reef lies a cross that cares for and protects the men who go to sea daily for sustenance. Initiated by Ramon Bravo, this cross is a forward-thinking monument designed to relieve visitor stress to the reef years before MUSA was conceived.

To understand why the statue is there and what it represents, you must first understand the man behind it.

Don Ramon Bravo Prieto

Ramon Bravo, 21 Oct 1925 - 21 Feb 1998, was born in Piedras Negra, Coahuila. He was a Mexican diver, author, photographer, and underwater filmmaker. He was a famous Mexican swimmer that competed in the 1948 and 1952 Summer Olympics.

Ramon Bravo y Jacques Coustaeu

He soon became involved with diving and filmmaking and quickly gained fame in Europe and America. His fascination and dedication to sharks led to much of his time and work filming and studying these amazing animals. It was Ramon Bravo that is responsible for the discovery (through fisherman Carlos Garcia "Valve"), filming, and studying of the "sleeping sharks" near Isla Mujeres in the 70s, where tiger sharks were seen to be sleeping on the ocean floor. Because of this discovery, Jacques Cousteau spent several weeks here studying this phenomenon with Ramon Bravo as his guide.

This unusual behaviour is thought to be caused by underwater freshwater rivers from the Yucatan, which the sharks would use to cleanse their bodies. Cousteau spent several weeks here studying the sharks and the migration of lobsters.

One of Bravo's novels became a film called Tintorera (1977), for which he did underwater photography. He photographed and directed underwater scenes in the James Bond movie Licence to Kill.

Ramon Bravo is a significant person in Isla Mujeres and has contributed much to studying and understanding our beautiful and fragile ecosystem. He has inspired many to embrace the career of marine biology, oceanography, scuba diving or underwater photography, and many others to dedicate themselves to preserving our environment from other perspectives.

His work in the defence of marine ecosystems led to the presentation of the Ramon Bravo Medal, which the Government of Quintana Roo grants.

The Statue and Ramón

Ramon Bravo had the idea of installing religious sculptures on the ocean seabed. A foresight that well predated the successful installation of MUSA.

The first installation was of Christ on Palancar Reef in Cozumel at 24 meters.

The second religious sculpture installation was The Cross of the Bay in the Manchones National Park.

As early as 1993, Ramon Bravo was deeply saddened by how the reefs were being affected and how large fish were becoming scarce. He was concerned about the large number of visitors effects on the reef and desired to do something to avoid the continued destruction. His solution was to submerge a religious symbol a few meters from the Manchones reef, which was, at this time, the most visited area.

He reasoned that tourists would spend 15-20 minutes away from the reef. While the cross has no religious connotations, he believed that "people have more respect for a symbol of this nature than the authorities".

He said, "Since it is normal to dive for no more than an hour per day, the tourists will have less time to bother the life of the reef while visiting the cross."

Many years later, thanks to the installation of MUSA in 2009, this accumulated impact of visitors would, again, be significantly reduced.

A man with a mission, he never questioned the ability to complete the project or find the funding. He immediately collaborated with the governor, Engineer Mario Villanueva, the Municipal President, Fidel Villanueva Madrid, and Salvador Vidal, amongst others. Money was collected, and Enrique Miranda, who had made the Christ of Cozumel, was commissioned the complete the statue.

Finally, on August 17, 1994, witnessed by the community of Isla Mujeres, Cancun, and various parts of the Republic, the long-awaited sculpture was blessed by Father Jose Eduardo Perez and submerged.

Unfortunately, this was not to be its final resting place. On September 14, 1988, Hurricane Gilberto arrived to wreak havoc on the island. So much of the island was severely damaged. The much-beloved statue did not survive the destructive power of Gilberto and lay broken on the seabed.

Again Ramon Bravo, the people of Isla Mujeres, and especially Raul Magaña, who used his people and money, took out, repaired, improved, and reinstalled the Cross of the Bay to what would this time be its final resting place on the seabed.

It is from this place, situated at the Southern top of Manchones, that it "cares for and protects those who search the sea for their daily sustenance". Every year on August 17, the anniversary of The Cross of the Bay, the island gathers around this statue to thank the sea for her kindness and to give memory to those lost at sea. If you are diving the statue at this time of year, you will often see wreaths at the base of the statue.

The Statue

The statue is a bronze cross, and it weighs almost a ton. It sits on the ocean floor at 12 meters/ 40 feet and stands alone, not far South of Manchones Reef. Inside the cross is a religious figure with its head bent toward the not-so-distant reef.

The statue stands 3 meters/ 10 feet tall, and fire coral is home along the structure. Many Christmas Tree Worms adorn the statue but quickly hide their brightly coloured crowns at the approach of divers.

The Dive

The dive begins at the statue by free descent or descent lines. The descent lines come and go from the Manchones National Park because big boats pull the buoys off the lines.

As you descend, you will see the enormous statue emerge into your view. The symbolism of this statue is powerful to the local community, and respect must be given during the dive. Good buoyancy is also necessary as the pre-mentioned fire coral can give a mighty sting.

The head of the figure carved into the bronze cross indicates where to travel for your next stage of the dive; it is slightly inclined toward Manchones Reef. The Cross of the Bay deserves 10 minutes of your dive time to explore and photograph, and then the jump from The Cross to Manchones Reef will be another 10 minutes. There is not much to see between the two, so it is not worth stopping to explore, but there is always the chance of a transient turtle or ray crossing your path to your reef destination.

As you dive, Manchones slowly comes into view, and as always, it is covered in a bounty of marine life. From here on, it is spending the rest of your remaining dive time exploring the reef.

A safety stop is not required at an average of 10 meters/ 33 feet. As with all Parque National dives, the time for this dive is 45 minutes. This is a local regulation to keep the stress on the reef to a minimum and ensure all boats have their time using the existing buoys.

Depth 12 meters / 40 feet Experience Level Entry Level, Beginners, and all levels of certified divers Average Visibility Underwater 20-30 mt / 66-99 feet Average Water Temp 28 C°/ 82F°

Dive Time

45 minutes (Parque National Regulations)

Fish Reported with Click Here

Coastal, W. (2022a, July 21). Isla Mujeres Daily News & Events Sunday, May 7. About Isla Mujeres.

Coastal, W. (2022b, July 21). Isla Mujeres Daily News & Events Wednesday, February 21. About Isla Mujeres.

From D'Casa International Digital Magazine 22by D'CASA International Magazine. (2021, October 6). La cruz de la bahía. Issuu.

History of Isla Mujeres. (1997). Copyright 1997–2017, Isla Mujeres Net.

Roo, R. N. Q. (2017, February 21). Recuerdan a Ramón Bravo en Isla Mujeres.

Remembering Ramon Bravo: Environmentalist, Oceanographer, and Olympic Athlete. (2015, March 19). Isla Mujeres Magazine.

Ramón Bravo - Wikipedia Republished // WIKI 2. (2022, February 5). Wikipedia.

EL PARQUE NACIONAL COSTA OCCIDENTAL En su XX Aniversario. (2016, February 13). [Facebook]. Fidel Villanueva Madrid.

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