30 Canoes Cross the Caribbean Sea
by Ingrid Datica, Canoera
I was part of more than 300 canoeists who did the Maya sacred journey. The crossing of 18 kilometers from Pole (Xcaret) to Cuzamil (Cozumel) on 21 and 22 May 2011 to the sanctuary of the Ixchel goddess was to pay tribute to the goddess of the Moon, of medicine and of fertility.
Why enter the crossing? Because it was a strong challenge, a new adventure, and something different. I like challenges.
When training for the Travesía Sagrada Maya I felt great emotion, which was a liability to a challenge that I wanted to fully carry out. The day that I decided to, at that time I knew that there was no turning back and did not doubt to abide by it. Many people entering the journey are looking for a reason, with an intention, fulfilling a goal, or having a dream. They say that they are looking for a rebirth. 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 10 crew in the canoe number 8, Gustavo as helmsman (who set the course, a very important position), Alma, Anne, Charles, Mauricio, Antonio, Franco, Julio, Henry (the force of the paddling), and I, as Proel Ingrid. Proel is the person who is in the forward position of the canoe, taking the steady pace of the rowing.
When you row you do not do it only for you. It is for your teammates that you take a canoe. You're going against the current, against the wind. It is the force of nature; it is your weight and your colleagues'. You know that they are doing the same effort for you; they save your life and you theirs—it is teamwork. To achieve this alliance requires consistency in training and socialization with your peers, spending time together not only in training, but also getting to know each other, to enjoy being together as brothers of the same tribe.
This year was the most difficult of all, according to experts. The wind and current were against us. The marine port closed for small craft at 10 a.m. that day and we were in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. But we were already trained for these waves and the wind and there was no fear, but we didn't know what was waiting for us. Strong waves struck our canoe, making us lose control and balance, turning us and leaving us in the middle of the vast sea. It was a moment of adrenaline which helped us to wake up and renew forces. Concerned, but not desperate, we resumed control of our canoe and continued paddling towards our destination.
The experience was unforgettable: you give everything. Your strength, your pride, and your weaknesses come alive; your sorrows, joys, and thousands of thoughts go through your head after several hours. Suddenly everything is left behind except the time that is happening. What you want is to get there but when everything leaves you, nothing matters and there is only you and your brothers in this small boat in a vast sea and you only have rowing. You row and row without stopping. There is no pain; there are no disruptive thoughts, just looking at what you have in front: the broad sea, the vast sky, the thread of the coast, and rowing. When finally, after many hours of paddling, you see the point of arrival, there are mixed emotions of whether to cry or to laugh. It does not matter; whatever is good.
Upon arrival, you realize that yes, there is definitely a renaissance! Something has changed in you. You want to embrace your colleagues and thank them for sharing that strong moment with you. And your family is there waiting on the shore of the sea, giving you their full support.
Thank you for being there.
Yes, definitely the gods and the universe bless you; your effort was worth it. Your mind is quiet, your spirit is high and your body is tired, very tired. But you are still, preparing the next day at dawn for the return.
The next day! The return!
The weather improves with the radiant, bright sun, and the quiet and beautiful sea awaiting under a clear sky; without a doubt, it is the best day to return home.
All ready, the canoeists are dressed in beautiful pre-Hispanic costumes, faces painted, warriors of truth. Their joy and excitement will spread. An incredible energy is felt in the environment. Shouting, all ready, they raise their oars in jubilation.
All canoes await us at the small pier that has been built especially for this day. We go out together and the landscape is filled with beautiful boats along the coast of Cuzamil (Cozumel). It is beautiful, really beautiful. We are going home.
We paddle four hours, singing and encouraging each other with great joy, back to XamanHa (Playa del Carmen), where waiting for us is a fantastic ceremony, with dances, food, and the smoke of incense that rises to the sky. Music, dancers, and visitors and family with tears in their eyes, are waiting on the beach to welcome us. They arrived well? Are you well? They are the voices that rise. I have no words to describe the scene; you have to live it to feel it.
The people you know in this circle is amazing—they are of all customs, religions, colors and nationalities. But here in the Travesía Sagrada Maya all are warrior canoeists.
I am native from another country but proudly continue representing the Travesía Sagrada Maya as mine.
I give thanks to the organizers who keep and re-create this beautiful tradition and let me be part of it. It is not my land but I feel like it is my own.
Would I do it again? Of course ... I'm ready for 2012.