What is the Sacred Mayan Journey in Xcaret?

A legacy that goes beyond time

The Sacred Mayan Journey 2014

The oarsmen have heard the calling of the ocean that with its restlessness has called them forth into the unknown, a challenge for the brave, to row towards the sun in their Sacred Mayan Journey.

For the Mayans, daring to carry out this great journey implied a risk, a type of personal transformation that from a religious stand point meant a transition to the after life.

 

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Photo by Miguel Gonzalez

 

In this the 8th Sacred Mayan Journey, the oarsmen are preparing these last days for the great crossing, rowing with faith reviving this millenary tradition. After six months of ardeous training, more than 300 oarsmen volunteers will cross the open sea from Xcaret to Cozumel departing this May 23rd. They will then return the same route back to Xcaret on May 24th, keeping alive–with every stroke of the water–the legacy of the great Mayans.

 

A Journey into the Past

 

More than a thousand years ago in the Mayan world, the ancient civilization performed annual rituals in honor of Ix Chel, goddess of fertility, health, water, vegetation, painting and weaving. The chosen warriors took the message of the corn across the ocean to the island of Cozumel in order to worship the goddess and return with the message of the oracle to their villages.

 

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The rituals of this journey began days prior with the market known as Kii’wik, site in which different products from all regions of the Mayan world were sold or traded. The brave oarsmen prepared for their sacred crossing to bring forth the offerings for the goddess and redeem their favors for their people.

 

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The blue turquoise of the Caribbean Sea was of great importance to the Mayan culture because just as it was a source of food and transport, it was also a source of devastation and destruction. Like the cenotes of the region, the ocean was considered an entrance to Xibalba, the Mayan underworld. For the brave messangers of the Sacred Mayan Journey, crossing the sea was like entering the thresholds of the gods, it was a feat to enter into the sacred.

Nowadays, the oarsmen are motivated by different, personal reasons that push them to row towards the horizon a total of 62.6 kilometers (38.6 miles) on the route Xcaret-Cozumel-Xcaret.

 

The Maritime Maya

 

The exchange of goods and commerce was of great importance for the ancient civilization. There are records that show that the Maya had diverse routes that kept their economy alive and reached all across the Mayan world including the state of Tabasco and further south in Belice, Honduras and Panama. Within the Yucatan Peninsula, there are two important points in the routes of these journeys: Polé and Kuzamil.

 

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For its privileged location, the Maya chose Polé (now Xcaret) as one of their most important ports and mercantile center. Its ancient name Polé meant “merchandise” or “deal of merchants”. In addition to its significance and economic relevance, the ancient port was the closest point of departure for the pilgrimages to the island of Cozumel, where the Mayan faced the sea paddling long and tiring miles to provide tribute and worship to the goddess Ix Chel.

Meanwhile, Kuzamil was an important site for the commercial network of the PostClassic as traders flocked to the island and pilgrims from across the peninsula took the dangerous and sacred journey to worship the goddess of the moon.

 

A legacy that goes beyond time

 

 

The recreation of the Sacred Mayan Journey is to remember and venerate the past, reviving an ancient practice to learn from this civilization. Through music, dance and sport, the great Mayan journey forms an important tie across several levels in the community while it incentivates cultural tourism in a local, national and international level highlighting the richness in tradition of past and present Mexico.