A chorus of conch horns and drumbeats, priests chanting, the smell of copal incense on the breeze as the first rays of the sun touch the shores of the bay in Xcaret transport you back in time to the days of the ancient Maya as you watch oarsmen receive the blessing of the gods. They board their canoes and embark on a perilous journey across the sea to the sacred island of Cozumel to worship at the shrine of the goddess Ixchel. On May 25 and 26, scenes from Mayan history are reenacted in the Travesia Sagrada Maya, the Sacred Mayan Journey, which takes place at Xcaret and Cozumel.
Xcaret Park is the location of the ancient port of Polé, once a Mayan trade center and the departure point for pilgrimages to Cozumel. At dawn on May 25, after the priests say a prayer for them, the canoes depart for Cozumel. As the pilgrims’ families bid farewell, 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. The return voyage to the mainland is the following day and they are greeted in Polé with great jubilation.
A voyage of faith
After six months of arduous dawn training sessions, on May 25, more than 300 oarsmen from Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen will board a fleet of canoes in the sheltered inlet at Xcaret ready to embark on the 2018 Travesia Sagrada Maya or Sacred Mayan Journey. They follow the 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 twelfth 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 Mayan market and rituals in honor of Ixchel to the clothing, headdresses and face paint worn by the priests and priestesses, the nobility, dancers and oarsmen, everything has been carefully researched to make it as authentic as possible.
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.
If you would like to witness the Sacred Mayan Journey ask your Concierge for assistance in booking a trip to Xcaret.