Category Archives: Settings for Collapse

The Terrain of Isla Cerritos

Most of the action in book three, “Collapse,” (of my Crossover series) takes place on Isla Cerritos, which was a trading port connected to Chichen Itza. An artifact illustrates the importance of trade:

Artwork showing the importance of trade

An obvious question: what is/was the terrain of Isla Cerritos? And what was the appearance then as well as now?

Luckily, there have been several archaeological projects done on that island. I found the following reports to be very helpful:

  1. by  Anthony Andrews, F R Castellanos, T G Negron, & P C Rivers.
  2. by Traci Ardren & Justin Lowry.

And while the island is hard to get to, a visit was photographically documented in the following article:

The island is small and only a few meters (my characters are starting to use the measurement “strides” which is about a meter) high:

View of Isla Cerritos (from the article)

It is thought that the island was “mined” for the stone after it was abandoned (When? Probably when Chichen Itza fell around 1200 CE or so). So today, there’s not much remaining:

Remains of foundations on Isla Cerritos (from the article)

How archaeologists view Isla Cerritos today:

Archaeological mapping of Isla Cerritos today

So we know it’s a small island, not very high. But what did it look like in the 11th century? Here’s where literary license (and a lot of reference books) come into play. Surata (Brent’s daughter!) made this drawing as they approached the island:

Vertically exaggerated view of Isla Cerritos sketched by Surata. Dimensions in meters/strides

While on the island, Brent made this rough sketch:

Brent’s sketch of Isla Cerritos in the 11th Century

Fox, Vulture, Deer, and Jaguar are the names of the elite clans/families who run this trading island.

Caveat: Brent and Surata are likely to improve their sketches.

The name “Isla Cerritos” is Spanish. I’ve tentatively called it “Turtle Island” in the book. Any suggestions as to a better name?

Interested in the Maya? Allow me to suggest: “Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed” by Dr. Edwin Barnhart (put out by The Great Courses). A great primer! 48 lectures on 8 DVDs. (It’s probably in your local library).

Questions or comment are welcome! Send to