A thousand years of history is reenacted annually in the Riviera Maya, and it is called the Travesía Sagrada Maya – the Sacred Mayan Journey. This reenactment commemorates a ritual in which the Maya traveled across the Caribbean Sea in canoes from Pole (Xcaret) to Kuzamil (Cozumel) to worship goddess Ixchel and ask for special favors: fertility, health, water, and good crops. The Caribbean was considered a source of food, transportation, commerce, and entry to Xibalba, the Underworld.
The objective of the Travesía Sagrada Maya is to recreate and reestablish a link to cultural identity for the region’s inhabitants at many different levels, as well as to become an attraction for local, national, and international tourism.
The ancient Maya had a strong structure for those participating in the sea crossing: fasting, sexual deprivation, insomnia, and painting the face/body. Today that structure exists just as strictly as it did hundreds of years ago. In 2018, there will be 38 canoes, each with ten people, for the reenactment, and this is truly a BIG DEAL for participants. Luckily, we were able to visit with Rocio Cue to get the lowdown on what it is like to be a canoeist for this journey. Many will remember Rocio, an Akumal Norte resident who worked with Peak Gym and La Boutique. Rocio is still active with Peak Gym in its new location in Tulum as well as assuming property management duties and teaching Spanish here in Akumal Norte.
The phrase, “many are called; few are chosen…” might aptly describe modern day participants. It is tough to live up to the rules and commit to the strict training schedule. The training began in October for an event in May at several locations in the Riviera Maya. Rocio’s venue was Xel Ha. Three days per week she arrived at 6:00 am for 1½ hours of training. This event is attracts adult people of many different nationalities and ages. Rocio at age 52 is participating for the fourth year. Moving a canoe made of fiber glass weighing 50o kilos and carrying 10 adults is a tremendous challenge; you need to be extremely physically fit and endure and pass all the water safety requirements. Each canoero has a special function when traveling in open water, and practice includes what to do if the canoe is tipped. The route the canoe takes conforms to the ocean currents – counter current going, with the current on the return– and takes six to nine hours of paddling from Xcaret to Cozumel. Imagine what this must be like! Yes…few are chosen.
The departure from Xcaret as well as the arrival in Cozumel is a time for well-wishers to gather to join in celebrating this ceremonial event…hundreds of people line the pathways to watch the rituals of music, dance, songs, processions, and dramatic performances. There is food in abundance, colorful clothing, and body paintings – a Mecca for serious photographers as well as for Selfies.
During the crossing the canoes do not all stay together, but do hook up for the entrance at Chankanaab Park on Cozumel where more feasting takes place and sacrifices of food are placed by the two replicas of Ixchel. The canoers may sample the food, but most is buried near Ixchel in ritualistic fashion. The night is spent in a hotel on Cozumel and the following morning at 9:00 am the return journey to Xcaret begins.
Think about it–could you make this journey? Rocio told of the many times a canoeist is ready to quit – so exhausted and tired with achy arms and body and bloody hands. That’s when help from your fellow canoers comes in, and as Rocio described it, “You are paddling not with your body, but your heart.”
The original date for this year was May 25 and 26, but the winds of Tropical Storm Alberto interferred. The new date is June 2 and 3. To attend, contact Xcaret online or at the park itself.
AkumalNow extends special good luck thoughts and admiration to Rocio as she embarks on this magnificent journey to revive Maya culture–the Travesía Sagrada Maya.
A link to video: http://www.travesiasagradamaya.com.mx/