It’s 5.30 in the morning and you can feel the rain as you wait for everything to start. Some of your comrades fix their outfits, the women apply the final touches to their make-up and hair, some with a touch of feathers. A few eat their breakfast, while others are mentally preparing themselves for the adventure that is about to commence. Several people warm up their muscles so that their arms and legs will not fail them during the crossing. The more relaxed among the group are talking and laughing as they greet others. Once again, the Traviesa Maya is about to begin!
With nerves and great emotion, you climb aboard your canoe and begin to row, as per the ritual. You find yourself in the middle of the sea, your family and friends left behind on shore, with water splashing on your face, the canoe negotiating the waves and the image of Cozumel in the distance in front of you. You begin to imagine how these journeys must have been during the times of the ancient Maya.
You let yourself go and suddenly you are there, feeling and listening to the chatter from places like Xaman Há (now Playa del Carmen), as well as Polé (Xcaret), Xel Há, and Tankah. These three places served as ports for commerce and also for trips to other cities in the Maya world, like Cuzamil (Cozumel). You imagine people in motion, filling their canoes with clothing, vases, and animals; carrying sacks of cacao, the currency of that time; merchandise of all types. Further away is the smoke from the fogones where food is prepared for those who depart, the delicious smell of corn that arises from the comal.*
You keep rowing and imagine the men that would travel to the island with great fervour to visit the sanctuary of Ix Chel, the goddess of fertility, the moon and the sea. They would provide offerings and ask her for a good harvest, also hoping that she would grant them the grace to have children, as many women today do when we head to Cozumel.
It’s been 12 years since this tradition was revived in Xcaret; I salute you my fellow canoers!
*Some these descriptions come from soldiers that accompanied Cortés.