Pueblo re-creation conjures Mayan past

Cozumel Mayan Village ceremonial arch

Little remains of the eight villages established by the Mayans on the island of Cozumel. But two years ago, the Pueblo del Maiz (Carretera Transversal, Camino á San Gervasio km 5, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 984-146-5771) opened to show how the ancient Mayans lived.

grinding corn at Pueblo del MaizThe complex is centered around a series of thatched roof huts called palapas and populated with guides in often rather dramatic traditional dress. From the start, a visit has a great sense of ceremony. After I had been cleansed with fragrant smoke, I made an offering of cacao beans to a goddess and then planted a couple seeds of corn in the dark earth.

It quickly became clear that growing, harvesting, and preparing food was a large part of Mayan life. In one palapa, I used a traditional stone metate to grind corn for making tortillas and later shaped a tortilla by hand. It’s a labor-intensive process, rewarded with a freshly cooked tortilla topped with a delicious chocolate chile sauce.

Pueblo del Maiz on CozumelIn another palapa I once again rolled up my sleeves and helped crush cacao beans for a strong, but not sweet, chocolate drink. The harvest was clearly a time of great celebration for the Mayan peoples. Elaborate dances and other ceremonies focused on the harvest (like the ecstatic dance with fire at left) make a visit into an dramatic experience.

The Pueblo del Maiz is becoming a popular excursion for cruise ship passengers, but also welcomes individual visitors. If you don’t want to get caught up in an excursion crowd, contact the village ahead to schedule a private tour. Contact Viangy Rocha Jiménez at viangy@hotmail.com or direct tweet via @PuebloMaiz.

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