With the first rays of the sun on May 17 in the bay at Xcaret, a fleet of Mayan canoes will set sail to a chorus of chants, drum beats and conch horns. They are embarking on a journey to the sacred island of Cozumel to worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility. It is the Travesia Sagrada Maya, the Sacred Mayan Journey, the representation of an ancient Mayan pilgrimage.
After six months of dawn training sessions, 380 oarsmen are ready to board their canoes for the Travesia Sagrada Maya. They will be following the sea route taken by ancient Mayan pilgrims who traveled from all over the Yucatan Peninsula to the island of Cozumel (Kuzamil) to worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, childbirth and the moon and tides.
This is the thirteenth year of the Sacred Mayan Journey, which is the representation of a pre-Hispanic pilgrimage and rituals from the Late Post-Classic period of Mayan history (A.D. 1250-1519. The temples of the ancient Mayan port of Polé lie within Xcaret Park. Once a trade center, it was one of the departure points for pilgrimages to Cozumel.
The pilgrims make landfall on Cozumel at Chankanaab Park at around 1 p.m. and make their way to the shrine of Ixchel where they make offerings to the goddess.
The morning of May 18, they set sail again heading for the mainland with Polé in their sights. A cheer goes up from the shores of the bay when the first canoe of returning pilgrims is spotted and they are greeted with great joy.
The Travesia Sagrada Maya originated as a Grupo Xcaret initiative to restore an ancient tradition and every detail has been carefully researched to make it as authentic as possible.
The oarsmen come from the Riviera Maya, Cozumel, Cancun, Yucatan and other parts of Mexico and they are joined by expats that have chosen to make their home here. This year, there are 36 foreign rowers from 14 countries, including France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, United States and Canada.
Some 250 dancers and musicians from Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, the Zona Maya in southern Quintana Roo and Xcaret reenact ancient rituals in Polé and Cozumel, portraying the goddess Ixchel, priests and priestesses, the ruler and his court, merchants and villagers.
If you would like to witness the Sacred Mayan Journey ask at the Thomas More Travel desk about trips to Xcaret.
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