What’s Mayan is yours
culture to life
Montero’s favorite part? “Seeing the sun-
rise. Wow! We feel the sea breeze as we embrace
Mother Nature, and love what we do.”
Moreno also enjoys the closeness with
nature: “While paddling, we see every shade
of our beautiful blue sea, accompanied by
wildlife like dolphins, sea turtles, flying fish
The night before the canoe journey, my
group and others sit on bleachers on the
beach at Xcaret and watch dancers perform
onstage. The plot, based on fact, is about a
Spanish sailor captured by the Maya, who
eventually became a warrior and wed a chief’s
daughter. Young women in flowing white
dresses dance seductively, then couples per-
form dances of creation. Warriors appear
with the Spanish captive—bearded, clad in
European garb—who, after his hands are
unbound, joins in.
By Sharon McDonnell
IT’S BEFORE DAWN, and suspense is growing on the beach. We’re standing, sitting,
craning our necks, bleary-eyed (my group left
our hotel at 4: 15 a.m.). Some are in the restaurant above for a lofty bird’s-eye view.
Then, as dawn paints the sky, we watch
almost 300 people, all volunteers, start to row
to Cozumel. Dressed all in white—men in
loincloths, women in white blouses and
skirts—and faces streaked with red, blue and
white, they’re blessed by shamans for the arduous five- or six-hour journey ahead of them.
The crowd cheers. It is, in a word, thrilling.
It’s part of the Mayan Sacred Journey
(for tickets, visit
com.mx), a three-day series of events each
May on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, or Riviera
Maya, that honors ancient Mayan traditions.
This year marked the seventh annual such
event in this region, famous for white-sand
The Costco Connection
Costco sells vacation packages to the Riviera
Maya region, as well as many other areas of
Mexico. For more information, call 1-877-
849-2730, or click “Travel” at Costco.com.
Top: Volunteers row to the island of
Cozumel. Inset: Crowds watch
performances on a stage at Xcaret.
beaches, turquoise sea and ruins like Tulum;
the journey is organized by Xcaret, an eco-archaeology park south of Cancún. The
highlight: the canoeists’ reenactment of a
traditional Mayan pilgrimage to the goddess
of fertility and the moon, Ixchel, whose
home was the island of Cozumel.
For Cancún Costco member Monica
Ortiz Montero, 33, a graphic designer, 2013
was her fourth year as a canoeist. “Rowing is
my passion, but this goes beyond an event,”
she says. “It represents my roots to my coun-
try and ancestors. It’s an encounter with one-
self to see life differently. I feel proud to be on
this pilgrimage to Ixchel.”
It’s not easy being a canoeist: You train
with a coach from 6 to 7: 30 a.m., three days a
week, from November to May.
During the day, before the nighttime
dances, we also shop at a Mayan marketplace
at Xcaret, once a village named Ppolé, trading
cacao beans, once used as coins by the Maya,
to buy Mayan products such as honey—so
highly valued, there was a bee god—crafts,
corn, textiles and herbs.
After the canoeists land at Cozumel, they
present offerings to Ixchel and hear her oracle. On the event’s final day, the volunteers
leave Cozumel at dawn to row to Playa del
Carmen, where relatives, friends, the press,
local officials and jubilant dancers and musicians welcome their safe return.
This year, something else to celebrate:
The world didn’t end on December 21, 2012.
Though some feared this date, the Mayan calendar merely predicted the beginning of a
new cycle. C
JUNE 2013 ;e Costco Connection 85
Sharon McDonnell is a San Francisco–based