One Woman’s Sacred Journey – Mayan Sacred Canoe Festival

Posted June 28, 2011 by LocoGringo in Guest Bloggers,Mexican Culture

Paddling in the Sacred Mayan Journey Xcaret to Cozumel Mexico - LocoGringo


I was one of more than 300 canoeists who participated in the Maya Sacred Journey.  The event, held on the 21st and 22nd of May 2011, consisted of canoeing 18 kilometers from Pole (Xcaret) to Cuzamil (Cozumel) to the sanctuary of the Ixchel goddess to pay tribute to the goddess of the Moon, medicine and fertility.  Why did I enter the crossing? Because it was a strong challenge, a new adventure, something different. I like challenges.

When training for the Travesía Sagrada Maya, I felt great emotion. It was a challenge that I wanted to fully carry out. The day that I decided to participate I knew there was no turning back. I had no doubt that I would see this through. Many people entering the journey are looking to fulfill a goal or a dream. Some say they are wanting to experience a re-birth. My reason? None. I did not expect anything, my mind was open and ready. I did not know what I faced, but I knew that it would not be easy.

We were crew of 10 in the canoe.  Number 8, Gustavo the helmsman, has a very important position as he sets the course. Anne, Charles, Mauricio, Antonio, Franco, Julio, Henry and I were the force of the paddling. As proel, I was the person who is in the forward position of the canoe keeping the steady pace of the rowing. The people participating in this event are of all customs, religions, colors and nationalities. But here in the Travesia Sagrada Maya we are all warrior canoeists.  When you row, you do not do it just for you.  You are working with your teammates, battling against the current and against the wind. It’s the team against the forces of nature. You are working hard for your team and you know they are putting forth the same effort for you. They may save your life and you theirs. Achieving this alliance requires consistency in training and socializing with your teammates. Not only do we spend time together training but we spend time together outside of the canoe, getting to know each other. We enjoy being together as brothers and sisters of the same “tribe.”  You want to get to your destination, but  when you climb into the canoe and leave everything behind nothing matters anymore, just you and your brothers in this small boat in an unending sea.

Ingrid Datica and her team for the Sacred Mayan Journey

This year’s journey was the most difficult of all, according to experts. That morning, the wind and current were so strong the marine port closed for all small craft at 10AM.  By then, we were already in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.  We had been training for weeks for these conditions so there was no fear amongst us…but we didn’t know what was waiting for us. Strong waves struck our canoe making us lose control and balance thus turning us over dumping us in the middle of the sea. It was a moment fueled by pure adrenaline. Concerned but not desperate, we resumed control of our canoe and continued paddling towards our destination. We were awake and renewed!

The experience was unforgettable. One gives everything during such a journey.  At the same time, your weaknesses are exposed. Thousands of thoughts go through your head during several hours of rowing. You reflect on the joys and sorrows in life.  You row and row without stopping, looking at  the immense sea, the infinite sky… rowing and rowing…when finally, after many  hours of paddling, you see the point of arrival.  Our friends and families were waiting on the seashore, shouting their support. The team had mixed emotions. Some of us cried while some of us laughed …. it was all good.

Upon arrival, I realized that yes, there had been a renaissance! Something inside me had changed.  I wanted to embrace my “tribe” and thank them for sharing the journey with me.  Yes, the gods blessed our efforts. Our minds were quiet, our spirits high and bodies wracked with fatigue… but we still had to prepare for the return at dawn.

The next day, the weather was improved. The sun was bright, the sea was quiet and the sky was clear. It was a good day to return home. We dressed in beautiful Pre Hispanic costumes and painted our faces.  We were warriors of truth. The excitement of all the canoeists could be felt in the air. We shouted and raised our oars in jubilation.

We paddled for four hours, singing and encouraging each other along the way back to XamanHa (Playa del Carmen) where awaiting us was a fantastic ceremony with dancing, music and food.  Our family waiting on the beach welcomed us with tears in their eyes. I have no words to describe the scene…. You have to live it to understand it.

I am a native from  Venezuela, but I will proudly continue representing the Travesia Sagrada Maya as mine.  I give thanks to the organizers for recreating this ancient tradition and allowing me to be a part of it. This is not my land but it feels like my home.  Would I do it again? Of course, I´m ready for  2012….

Ingrid Datica, Canoera

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