The Cross of the Bay (La Cruz de la Bahía) in Isla Mujeres
Updated: Aug 16
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 every day in search of daily 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 the statue.
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.
He soon became involved with diving and filmmaking and quickly gained fame in Europe and America. His fascination and dedication to sharks led to a large portion 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. It was because of this discovery that Jacques Cousteau spent several weeks here studying this phenomenon with Ramon Bravo as his guide.
This unusual behavior 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 went on to become a film called Tintorera (1977) Which he did underwater photography for. He also photographed and directed underwater scenes in the James Bond movie Licence to Kill.
Ramon Bravo is a very important person of Isla Mujeres and has contributed so much to the study and understanding of 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 the preservation of our environment from other perspectives.
His work in the defense of marine ecosystems led to the presentation of the Ramon Bravo Medal which is granted by the Government of Quintana Roo.
The Statue and Ramón
Ramon Bravo had the idea of the installation of religious sculptures on the ocean seabed. A foresight that well predated the successful installation of MUSA.
The first installation was of Christ and was installed 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 effects the large numbers of visitors had upon 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 in the area.
His reasoning at the time was 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 for 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 they are visiting the cross."
Many years later, thanks to the installation of MUSA in 2009, this accumulated impact of visitors would, again, be greatly 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 the 17th of August, 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 then submerged.
Unfortunately, this was not to be its final resting place. On September 14th, 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 own 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 top of Manchones, that it "cares for and protects those who search the sea for their daily sustenance". Every year on the 17th of August, 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 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 in the direction of the not-so-distant reef.
The statue stands 3 meters/ 10 feet tall and fire coral has made its home along the structure. Many Christmas Tree Worms adorn the statue but quickly hide their brightly colored crowns at the approach of divers.
The dive begins at the statue, whether by free descent or the use of descent lines. The descent lines come and go from the Manchones National Park due to big boats pulling the buoys off the lines.
As you descend, you will see the huge statue emerge into your view. The symbolism of this statue is very strong to the local community and respect must be given during the dive. Good buoyancy is also a must as the pre-mentioned fire coral can give a mighty sting.
The head of the figure carved into the bronze cross is the indication of where to travel for your next stage of the dive; it is slightly inclined in the direction of Manchones Reef. The Cross of the Bay deserves a good 10 minutes of your dive time to explore and photograph and then the jump from The Cross to Manchones Reef will be about another 10 minutes. There is not a lot to see in 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 on the way to your reef destination.
Manchones slowly comes into view as you dive and as always, it is covered in a bounty of marine life. From here on in it is spending the rest of your remaining dive time exploring the reef.
At an average of 10 meters/ 33 feet, a safety stop is not required. The dive time for this dive, as with all Parque National dives, 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°
45 minutes (Parque National Regulations)
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