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 By Fred Swegles

It may come as a surprise that Cozumel Island, a magnet for Caribbean tourists, shares a heritage with San Juan Capistrano.

Whether you arrive by air or at the ferry dock, a large welcoming sculpture greets you: gracefully flying swallows.

The island’s name, in Mayan, is “Cuzaam luumil,” or “island of the swallows.” Legend has it that the first humans to visit the area observed many swallows flying over the island.

You won’t find an annual swallows fiesta on Cozumel, the tourist office affirmed. There’s no parade, no song “When the Swallows Return to Cozumel.”

But there are swallows on the island, though not as many as before, I was told. They’re primarily in remote mangroves or in large aquatic caverns known as cenotes.

Searching for swallows would be a wonderful excuse for swallows fanatics to go sample the white-sand beaches, the turquoise waters and the watering holes of Cozumel.

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