Our Story

Toña Pool and Jill McCaughan, working together to provide you with Xkeban products in Isla Mujeres (photo credit: Francesca McCaughan)

Toña Pool and Jill McCaughan, working together to provide you with Xkeban products in Isla Mujeres (photo credit: Francesca McCaughan)

Our Team

Xkeban is a Mexican-American partnership dedicated to celebrating indigenous culture and community while supporting sustainable tourism efforts. 

The original concept of Xkeban was born when Jill McCaughan first visited Isla Mujeres in the late 1990s and fell in love with this beautiful island, her people, and her culture. She decided to conduct social scientific research on tourism for her doctoral degree there, searching for the answers to the questions that islanders felt would help better the lives of the inhabitants. Sharing an interest in all things cultural, as well as a deep love for the island, she and many islanders began to collaborate on the early stages of this project, which culminated in an academic book, Abjection and Its Correction in Ethnographic Studies: Communication Issues in the Cultural Tourism of Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

Now, she has entered into a partnership with Toña Pool, who lives in Isla Mujeres and who sells artisanal goods in the Municipal Market. We are thrilled to finally have the resources to fulfill our promise to Isla Mujeres and her people: to create touristic products that celebrate the culture and history of Isla Mujeres, sharing the profits with the island community. Click here to learn about our namesake, Xkeban, and be sure to visit Toña when you are in Isla Mujeres and pick up a few authentic souvenirs for yourself and your friends!

Join our team by purchasing our products and sharing our story with your friends who love Isla Mujeres, too. Visit our Online Store to see what we have to offer, and then visit Toña in the Municipal Market!

The ruins of a modern replica of the Maya temple on Isla Mujeres (photo credit: J. McCaughan)

Our Project

At Xkeban, our mission is to offer authentic, tangible memories for cultured travelers....while supporting host communities.

That means creating souvenirs that relate directly to the history and culture of a specific location and sharing the profits with the local community.

Our project grew out of the research findings that Jill encountered with the help of the community and tourists in the late 1990s.

She realized that, while the island was beautiful and offered many different experiences--from water sports to ecotourism activities--one of the most unique aspects of the island was being overlooked: the island's important place in history.

Furthermore, "development" of the island threatened a second aspect that made Isla Mujeres special: her culture. The small-town, friendly atmosphere that made visitors feel so welcomed. While the geography of Isla Mujeres is very similar to that of Cancun, Isla Mujeres had something Cancun did not: the feeling of a true Mexican pueblo, a homey, safe feeling that high-rise hotels and international franchises could never compete with.

Finally, Jill and Miguel realized that, if the members of the island community--at all levels--did not feel as though they were both controlling and benefitting from opening up their home to visitors from around the world, that friendly, welcoming, and safe atmosphere would be lost, and along with it, Isla Mujeres' charm.

An excerpt from Torquemada's 1615 description of Cordova's landing on Isla Mujeres.

An excerpt from Torquemada's 1615 description of Cordova's landing on Isla Mujeres.

Why Isla Mujeres?

There are many historical and cultural reasons why Isla Mujeres is a special place--unlike any other in the world.

Just as Isla Mujeres is the first location in Mexico to bathe in the rising sun's rays each day, the island was also the site of the first intentional contact between Europeans and peoples indigenous to Mexico. According to most historians, the island was “discovered” and named by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba 500 years ago:

"In the year 1517, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba ... outfitted three ships ... and they happened to discover the Land of Yucatan, a coast which until then was unknown ... In one place, there are some very large and good salt ponds (salinas), and Cordoba called it 'the Island of the Women' because they had stone towers there ...  in which were placed, in very careful order, many idols that looked like women…." (p. 349).

--Father Juan de Torquemada (1615)

Although the Spaniards believed they had "discovered" the island, in reality, a community on the island had been established long before that, as made clear by what the Spaniards found there: stone temples, many statues of women, and many people who were dressed in Maya finery.

For countless years prior to this first contact, Isla Mujeres had been considered sacred ground, and a site for pilgrimage, by the Maya people, who had dedicated it to their principal female deity, Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, the moon, weaving, torrential inundations, and rainbows.

The Maya goddess Ixchel (image credit: Motherhouse of the Goddess)

The Maya goddess Ixchel (image credit: Motherhouse of the Goddess)


... So, Join Us in Thanking Isla Mujeres and Her People ...

Visit Toña and purchase one of the few remaining Limited Edition T-shirts today!


We are proud to have fulfilled our promise to donate $10 from each purchase made in 2018 to Clínica Veterinaria de Isla Mujeres A.C. and Isla Animals!


We are now selling the remainder of these shirts at a discounted price. Hurry and grab one before they are gone! And look for our new product lines coming soon!


Our Goal

Reviving and Celebrating Pre-Columbian Culture on Isla Mujeres

While Isla Mujeres took her name from the statues that Cordoba found and destroyed, their appearance remained a mystery to the community on Isla Mujeres for centuries.

Then, in 1876, French archaeologist, Augustus Le Plongeon, found one of those statues still buried in front of the altar near the temple on Punta Sur. However, it was broken as the team retrieved it from the sandy soil. All that was left intact were the head and the feet of the statue. He took those pieces with him when he left the island.

However, photographs and an account of the expedition were in turn unearthed during Jill's extensive archival research, and she returned to the island, providing the images to the local government.

And thus the idea was born to make touristic products that paid homage to the pre-Columbian culture of Isla Mujeres...To reunite the face of Isla Mujeres with her name.

Our first offering celebrates the passage of 500 years since the statues were lost, and as our Limited Edition T-shirt says, Isla Mujeres was discovered 500 years ago, but it was established long before that! 

One of the statues from which Isla Mujeres takes her name (photo credit: Augustus LePlongeon)

One of the statues from which Isla Mujeres takes her name (photo credit: Augustus LePlongeon)

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