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Travesia Sagrada Maya, the Sacred Mayan Journey to Cozumel

After six months of arduous training sessions at the break of dawn, 300 oarsmen from Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen will board 30 canoes in the sheltered inlet at Xcaret on May 26 ready to embark on the 2017 Travesia Sagrada Maya or Sacred Mayan Journey. They will be following the perilous sea route taken by ancient Mayan pilgrims who traveled to the sacred island of Cozumel (Kuzamil) to worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, childbirth and the moon and tides. Depicted as an old woman or a beautiful young maiden, Ixchel was also the patron of fishing, painting and weaving.

This is the eleventh 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). From the backdrop of a Kii’wik or bustling Mayan market and rituals in honor of Ixchel to the clothing, headdresses and face paint worn by the priests, dancers and oarsmen, everything has been carefully researched to make it as authentic as possible.

Xcaret Park is the location of the ancient Mayan port of Polé, once an important trade center and the departure point for pilgrimages to Cozumel. At dawn on May 26, Mayan priests bless the pilgrims and the ruler and his subjects gather on the shoreline to bid them farewell as one by one the canoes slip out of the bay their course set for Cozumel. As the pilgrims’ families watch, a flock of scarlet macaws flies overhead in a salute to the rising sun. A fitting tribute as macaws and parrots were sacred birds in the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures and were associated with the sun god.

The pilgrims make landfall on Cozumel at Chankanaab Park at around 1 p.m. and make their way to the shrine of Ixchel to offer up their prayers to the goddess and receive a message of hope for her people. They return to the mainland the following day and are greeted in Polé with great jubilation.

The Travesia Sagrada Maya originated as an initiative from the Experiencias Xcaret group to restore an ancient tradition and has been enthusiastically embraced by the people of the Mexican Caribbean and visitors from all around the world who have chosen to make their home here. This year, 38 citizens of Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile, Spain, Italy, France, United States, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland and the Netherlands are taking part in the event, joining oarsmen from Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche and other parts of Mexico.

If you would like to witness the Sacred Mayan Journey ask at the Thomas More Travel tour desk.


Photos courtesy of Experiencias Xcaret

This post is also available in: Spanish

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