Travesia Sagrada Maya: Celebrating Old Mayan Traditions

For thousands of years, the ancient Mayans went on a sacred pilgrimage to worship and pay respect to Ixchel. Also known as Ixchebelyax, she was the goddess of fertility, water, health, and vegetation. Fertility of the lands was one of the most sacred things for the Mayan civilization, as they lived off their lands both for trading and for survival. In the Travesia Sagrada Maya, an annual ritual where brave oarsmen and women crossed the ocean, they brought offerings to Ixchel in exchange for granting special favors for their lands and families.

The chosen people to embark on the journey were priests and elderly women. Children, young women, and other priests or men did not take part. Painted in black (for fasting), white, yellow, blue (for sacrifice), and red (for war), they got ready early morning as the sun barely rose. Their journey started in Polé main shipping port (which is what we know today as Xcaret).

 photo Travesiacutea-Sagrada-Maya_zps8ot52z3g.jpg

The word Polé derived from the Mayan word for merchandise (p’ol). The port was were the trade networking happened, making it one of the most important places for the Yucatan Mayan civilization. It was also used as a harbor to conquer inland and a starting point for the sea routes they developed.

From Polé, they would navigate for hours until reaching Kozumil (known today as the island of Cozumel). The journey itself was a transition for the oarsmen and eldery women involved. The ocean, just like the cenotes, was an entryway to Xibalba, or the underworld, which would represent a “transition to the beyond” for those sailing. The Caribbean Ocean’s importance went beyond that, as it was the greatest source of transportation and food for the ancient civilization.

The rituals had a specific structure which was not to be broken. Food deprivation, insomnia and sexual abstinence (in other words, fasting) were the sacrifices made in order to purify the soul. The priest or oracle at the time would determine the date and time the ritual would take place. He would also decide which members (other priests) would participate in this spiritual celebration.

The ceremony was celebrated with steam baths, alcoholic beverages (Balché and Chicha), prayers, perfuming with incense, devotion, music, singing, dancing, special food (corn, turkey, dog meat and cacao, mostly), and the sacrifice of a living being (whether it be animal or human), amongst other things. The sacrifice was of upmost importance, because this would link men with the divine gods, making the journey sacred.

 photo T Maya 11_zpsfvrjnsuq.jpg

The canoes in which they rowed were filled with offerings for Ixchel. Offerings ranged from foods, plants, animals and humans. The importance of Ixchel was grand, as without fertility existed no agriculture, and agriculture was the base of a civilization that was wealthy and valuable.

For years after the Mayans slowly disappeared, their traditions went uncelebrated. However, nine years ago, Xcaret decided to relive the sacred Mayan journeys experience and the spirituality that was once so sacred to their ancestors. Aiming to create a link between the cultural identity and today’s inhabitants of the Yucatan Peninsula, they have reestablished the ancient practice of the Travesia Sagrada Maya or Sacred Mayan Journey.

Hundreds of brave oarsmen, from children to elderly, locals and foreigners, train for six long months, physically and mentally, in order to row for hours until reaching Cozumel. They will depart on Friday 22nd of May, at 6am, as the first rays of sun rise over the horizon and will arrive in Cozumel around 1 or 2pm. A sacred ceremony celebrating the Lady of the Moon (also Ixchel), will take place that night in Cozumel.

 photo T Maya 10_zpsoxjkwkjh.jpg

Their early departure from Cozumel back to Xcaret will take place on Saturday 23rd of May, and Xcaret will be expecting their return at 1pm with a celebratory and spiritual ceremony to commemorate the oarsmen, the goddess Ixchel, and the ancient civilization that taught us this practice.

You can be a part of the celebration, as well, by being present at the farewell and welcoming (plus, you get to enjoy the park!). You can read all about the program and how to be a part of it here.

And to bid farewell and a safe journey to the participants who are devoting their strength, emotion, and spirit to what was once the most sacred journey of the Mayans, here is a poem written by C. Hawthorne Flaherty called “Diary of an Oarsman” (source).

“We row;

fire in our muscles,

salt in our eyes,

wind at our bow,

and sun on our skin.

 We burn and burn, until we have nothing more to burn.

We row and row until we can’t row any longer – then we row on.

We row and row beyond the vigor of our bodies until we row only with our hearts.

We row and row beyond the courage of our hearts until we row only with our souls.

We row and row beyond the spirit of our souls – beyond ourselves – until we row only with each other. 

Each and every stroke is one moment of choice – one choice after the other – we transcend the limits of what was impossible just one stroke before. 

You are not the Rutter-man for 13 hours of the journey.

You are not the Rutter-man for 156 hours of training.

You are the Rutter-man in moments.

You are the Rutter-man in the moments when you have lost sight of land and still you choose a course.

You are the Rutter-man when, despite absolute exhaustion, you hold the line against the current.

You are the Rutter-man when you have nothing left, but you still give. When you find laughter in tears, find joy in suffering, the will to persevere when others have lost heart. 

You aren’t the Rutter-man when you think you can’t do it; you are the Rutter-man when you do.”

Top Mexico Real Estate is a local American-owned real estate company, leader in its field in the Riviera Maya. If you are looking to retire or find a second home in paradise, feel free to contact one of our Top Buyer’s Representatives who will gladly help you, just like they have helped hundreds before, to find your very own slice of paradise.

And remember, here at Top Mexico Real Estate…

We Make It Happen!

“A Day Full of Wonder at Xcaret”

Sure you have likely seen many reviews about Xcaret Park but given that it is a place I love I would like to share my own thoughts and feelings about this wonderful destination!

What is Xcaret?

Xcaret is one of the biggest and most attractive eco-friendly attractions here in the Riviera Maya!  And it’s no wonder since the park is filled with so many beautiful aspects to explore.  I always recommend getting the Xcaret Plus package because it includes a fabulous meal and also all of your necessary aquatics and snorkel gear.

What can I do at Xcaret?

You can start anywhere in the park but for me I always prefer to start off swimming through the underground river and allow the rest of the day for exploring through the jungle, swimming in the lagoons and visiting the Mayan Village.

The underground River is a mysterious and historical experience.  If you have never swum through an underground cenote cave before it can be wondrous to know that you are exploring some of the greatest nature in the Riviera Maya which is known for their underground magic! Xcaret provides a very safe and structured way to do it!  They provide you with all the necessary equipment to snorkel!  You will never be lost as there are lots of exits with xcaret personnel available if you get tired; but most people will enjoy the entire route.  Along the way there are plenty of areas where you can have your photo taken!

After your swim you can move on to any other activity that you desire.  I like to take some time to relax in the hammocks over- looking an incredible view of the ocean and crashing waves!  It is pretty much breathtaking to see this area of the park.  You might also decide to grab a tube and hang out in the lagoon.  There is no schedule; you do as you please!

After spending time hanging in the sun and enjoying some swimming I like to start my hike or walk through the jungle to check out all the nature and history.  Along a long walking path around the park you can see lots of different wild animals such as Jaguars and spider monkeys, huge sea turtles, sharks and deer!  That is just to name a few!  My favorite is the butterfly house where you can visit and find amazing and colorful butterflies flying all around you in their natural habitat!  For me it is just incredible to see.

If you are tired of walking you can enjoy a canoe ride through the river where you can look around at all the nature surrounding you.

Wait there’s More?
Aside from all the nature Xcaret is rich in Mayan culture.  It offers a great experience to visit some Mayan ruins and see what a typical Mayan Village would have looked like years ago, as well as a beautiful Mayan graveyard full of colorful and interesting gravestones!

By this time you have probably had a long day and have worked up an appetite.  Although Xcaret has many food options to choose from all around the park I always like to use my included at the Mexican buffet that is located just towards the entrance.  In my opinion this is probably your best food option and it has a complete selection of various Mexican dishes!  If you can arrive around 5 pm you can also enjoy some nice entertainment as there is a horse show right there for everyone to see with some great Mexican attire for the riders as well as lovely music.  It’s fun and the kids enjoy this part as well.

The Mexican Show is a Must See Experience!
You must not leave the park without watching the Mexican show!  Xcaret includes two wonderful performances that are included in the price of your ticket and they are amazing and spectacular shows full of Mexican and Mayan Culture.  Recently during low season I have seen a new show that they have created that blew my socks off.  It was a show full of Music and Dancing and colorful traditional Mexican attire. Each act represented history from different states of Mexico.  Immediately following that performance you are invited to see a fire filled typical ball game from back in the Mayan days!  I will tell you that it is incredible!

Of course at the end of the night you can shop in one of the best souvenir stores that I have seen in Mexico.  By saying this I mean that it is not cheesy cheap souvenirs.  They sell things that are worth taking home.  Also, you can pick up and buy your photos if desired.

The day is long but well worth it and is absolutely a must do when you arrive here in the Riviera Maya!

-by Bea Lozano
Mexico Condo Hotel Kit

Photos: A Sacred Cenote Used to “Return the Dead to the Place of Origin”

The more they find out about the ancient Mayan civilization, the more impressive it is to be right here in the heart of it and see the sacred places of these people.


National Geographic recently published an article about a cenote, a large sinkhole leading into an underground river/cavern system, in Yucatan. The cenote seems to have been used a burial place for the bodies of nobility, as attested to in the ancient Mayan writings.  The idea was that the people had originated from the cenotes, and that they were returning them to their place of origin:


“The work has already yielded significant new insights into the cenote that many here still believe is guarded by a large serpent, that some say has feathers and the head of a horse.


“We have located 15 human crania and a large number of other bones, attesting to the use of the site as a burial location. Some of the remains are as delicate as small finger bones, sternums and a patella (knee cap). Indications are that there are many more bones located below the heavy silt that blankets much of the floor of the feature.


“Early data suggests that the site contains burials of both sexes and a range of ages from young adult and up. Ceramic fragments from water jars and a plate show a mix of Preclassic and Postclassic Maya use of the cenote. We have recovered a small sample of the bones (two femurs, a mandible and a tibia) that we will used to gain radiocarbon dates for the burials themselves.”


Here are some pictures of the cenotes and the discoveries:

Diving down into a cenote is purely magical; it’s easy to see why the Mayans connected these places to the underworld and afterlife, so dark and isolated, yet teaming with a secret life of their own.  This is part of why living in Mexico is so cool!


Read the entire National Geographic article here.


-by Bea Lozano

New, State-of-the-Art Planetarium to Open in Cancun

I love museums with ancient animals, scientific discoveries and stuff like that.  I also love planetariums – they’re just so amazing to see!


The good news is that Cancun will be getting a planetarium VERY soon, which will be great for anyone living in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Tulum – and even for those in Merida or Costa Maya.


Here are some details I found in a local Spanish news source:

  • It will be opening on July 19 (tomorrow!)
  • It will be called the Ka’Yok Scientific, Technological and Cultural Planetarium Complex of Cancun
  • “Ka’Yok” means “window to the universe” in Maya
  • The planetarium will be one of 10 most advanced in the world in terms of scientific and technological equipment
  • It will feature cutting-edge technological tools, interactive and multimedia, as well as a more advanced projection system to show images of stars on a perforated aluminum screen 12 meters in diameter
  • The observatory will be equipped with a 16-inch telescope, educational workshops, a museum on the Mayan science of space.
  • The complex was built in a record time of seven months with an investment of about 40 million pesos (about $3.2 million USD.)
  • The complex consists of the planetarium, the observatory, a water museum, an eco-technology park, an auditorium and botanical gardens.


This sounds like it will be quite the place to visit, with plenty to do both for families and for retired couples.  I can’t wait to make a trip out there.


– by Thomas Lloyd

A Large New Mayan Pyramid Site Discovered in Campeche

While recently I wrote about the very sad situation of Mayan pyramids being bulldozed in Central America, here on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula we’re seeing  the opposite – discovery and preservation.


Just yesterday, Tim Johnson of McClatchy Newspapers wrote about a new discovery deep in the jungle of the state of Campeche, which share’s the Peninsula with Quintana Roo (where Cancun and Playa del Carmen are located) and Yucatan (where Merida is located.)  Here’s an excerpt:


Deep in the jungles of southeast Campeche state, archaeologists have discovered a significant new Mayan site, called Chactun, or Red Rock, that was thrived roughly from 600 to 900 A.D. The site, never reported previously, is “one of the largest sites ever registered in the Central Lowlands,” the National Institute of Anthropology and History said.


Led by Ivan Šprajc, a team of Mexican and foreign archaeologists and experts financed by National Geographic came across the ruin a few weeks ago after studying aerial photos. The expedition was also financed by the Austrian firm Villas and the Slovenian company Ars longa. That’s Šprajc in the photos, by the way. “It is one of the largest sites in the Central Lowlands, comparable in extent and magnitude of its buildings to Becan, Nadzcaan and El Palmar in Campeche,” said Šprajc, a Slovenian researcher.


And, a couple more amazing pictures:


Mayan pyramids in Mexico


Mayan Pyramids in Yucatan


Read the full article here.


-by Thomas Lloyd


Mexico Real Estate e-book

Want to Know What an Ancient Mayan Market Looked Like? Try Playa del Carmen

Have you ever wondered what an ancient Maya market looked like?


Sure, there are “modern” Mayan markets in the Yucatan Peninsula – they are only “modern” in the sense that they exist in the present age.  But we all know that things have changed over the past 500 – 1000 years.


Fortunately, the Mayan’s ancient civilization was well documented, and combined with archaeological research as well as the culture’s own tradition, it has been possible to set up an ancient Mayan market, in Playa del Carmen!


Xcaret, a theme park just on the south edge of town, hosted the event.


I had the chance to go! Take a look at the pictures:


Notice the ancient Mayan garb of the vendors:


These are almost hairless dogs that the ancient Mayans and Aztecs kept:


If you ever get the chance, go to a market like this one – it’s quite the experience!


-by Bea Lozano


Mexico Health Care Kit

Mayan Pyramid Bulldozed – But Not in Mexico!

This is a a sad, sad situation.  I friend sent me a BBC article about a a 2300 year old Mayan pyramid that was recently bulldozed!  That means the pyramid is several hundred years older than even the famous ones at Chichen Itza!


I guess a construction crew was looking for road fill and decided to bulldoze this “mound.”  The government officials say it was impossible not to know  that it was a Mayan pyramid – I’m guessing because of the shape, and, if you look at the pictures, it’s more than obvious that it’s a structure that they’re dismantling.


Can you imagine that??? A 2300 Mayan pyramid for road fill!


Where Was This Atrocity?

But here’s the catch; this was NOT in Mexico.  This was in Belize, the country that borders Mexico, just south of the Mexican Caribbean, starting where serene, quiet and virtually unknown Costa Maya area ends.


The article says that this is pretty common in Belize.


In Mexico, this Wouldn’t Happen

Some Americans have been looking towards Belize and similar places for their new warm-weather home.  While I’m not going to get into comparing different Caribbean or Central American destinations, I will say that I’m glad to live in a country that protects its history.


Here in Playa del Carmen, for example, we have 2 small, minor pyramid sites right in the city.


  1. One is in the heart of downtown, just behind the storefront on Fifth Avenue.  It was incorporated into the development so people eating the restaurant can enjoy views of it.
  2. Another is in Playacar, a gated community right next to downtown. They made the area surrounding the pyramid a park, preserving a good deal of vegetation, helping to make the community greener with another park area, protecting the Mayan pyramid and allowing people to enjoy seeing it.


Out the jungle there are also many Mayan sites which archaeologists are constantly visiting.  Many have been uncovered and are being planned for tourist visits.  Even in non tourist area (I’ve been to quite a few) the pyramids may not get much investment to make them pretty for visitors, but at the very least they are left alone and no one bulldozes them.


Sure, many Mexicans may not be as knowledgeable of their history as they should be, but at least they respect these artifacts.


-by Thomas Lloyd


Mexico Real Estate e-book

Papadzules – Yucatan’s Delicious Version of Enchiladas

Most people have heard of enchiladas.  However, fewer people know about the variation of this dish on the Yucatan Peninsula called papadzules.


Even people who have arrived to the better known tourist centers like Cancun or Playa may not know about these since these places tend to be dominated by a variety of Mexican food from throughout the country as well as international.  In the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula they are common every day food, so anyone who’s been to Merida, Valladolid or Campeche is more likely to have seen or tried them.


Like enchiladas, they are made with rolled up tortillas.  Instead of chicken inside, they have hard boiled eggs.  On top, they have a green sauce made out of pumpkin seeds.  There may be a bit of tomato sauce as well, and some additional hard-boiled eggs.


The flavor is mild and pleasant, and it’s unlikely that they will “take getting getting used to.”  For me, they’re not among my favorites, but they’re definitely a nice change when we go out on a  road trip to the more distinctly Mayan regions of Yucatan.


If you get the chance to try them, you should feel privileged; apparently the name originally meant something like “food of the lords.”


– Bea Lozano; Mexico’s Leading Network of Specialists for Finding and Purchasing Mexican Properties Safely


Mexico Real Estate Testimonials

Celebrate the Equinox in Mexico – Joyfully Welcoming the Spring

The spring equinox is a beautiful time anywhere, but especially in Mexico, there are some places that excel in charm, beauty and spiritual strength.

On Wednesday, Tom posted about the spring Equinox at Chichen Itza, and yesterday about welcoming the spring in Playa del Carmen.

The following are a few more of the key places where people gathered for spiritual enlightenment, beauty or simply for the pleasure of seeing the sunrise on the first day of spring:

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan – an Aztec city just north of Mexico City

Retirement Travel in Mexico

Retirement Travel in Mexico

Retirement Travel in Mexico

El Tajin Pyramid, in Veracruz, on the Golf of Mexico

Retirement Travel in Mexico

Retirement Travel in Mexico

Retirement Travel in Mexico

Dzibilchaltun Pyramid, Yucatan

Retirement Travel in Mexico

Retirement Travel in Mexico

I hope that next year, you can make it to one of these magical places to welcome the spring!

-by Bea Lozano

Mexico Real Estate Testimonials