Playa del Carmen – A pre-Columbian market, dances and offerings to the goddess Ixchel were the first events of the Sacred Maya Crossing, a tradition restored several years ago that is the first big event of the Maya year celebrations in Mexico.
Tradition has it that Ixchel, goddess of fertility, Earth and the moon, lived on the Caribbean island of Cozumel and that members of mainland communities made the crossing to have her foretell their future.
More than 700 people are taking part until Saturday in the activities at the Xcaret ecological park in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo.
"The idea is to recover something that belongs to us Quintana Rooans that was lost for many years. Today Quintana Roo is populated by immigrants and we need events that anchor us to what is really ours, to something that belongs to our communities, and that is what we seek with this crossing," the Xcaret communications and public relations director, Iliana Rodriguez, said.
And that's why everyone taking part in the activities is a volunteer from one of the indigenous communities that still preserve many of their ancestral customs and languages.
On Thursday a market was installed to sell products made with ancestral ingredients like maize and cocoa beans - in fact the latter were once used as money for making payments.
Typical pre-Columbian dances were performed while stories were told of the goddess Ixchel, the chief oracle of the Mayas on the Yucatan Peninsula.
In Friday's crowning event, more than 300 people in canoes recreated the Sacred Maya Crossing, setting set out before dawn and rowing across the water to Cozumel from the resort town of Playa del Carmen.
This is the sixth year the crossing has been performed, but on this occasion it had a special significance since it comes in the year 2012, a time signaled by the Mayas as the end of the current calendar cycle.
"This year's crossing is to prepare ourselves to end this cycle and begin the one that follows," Rodriguez said, adding that despite popular belief that the Mayas predicted the end of the world this year, that's not what they were saying.
Unlike current thinking that time is lineal, for the Mayas, she said, it was circular and everything would be repeated.
"When you look back on your past, you have the chance to prepare yourself for the future and perform certain rituals to prevent the bad things" from happening again, she said.
To commemorate such an important date, which will fall on Dec. 21, numerous activities have been organized by the governments of the five states that make up the so-called Maya World: Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan and Quintana Roo.
The Mexican government expects that some 52 million tourists will visit the area in 2012.