A growing number of visitors have been making their way to the island of Cozumel, which is situated just offshore along Mexico’s stunning Riviera Maya. According to ASUR, which owns Cozumel’s airport, announced that 43,587 visitors came through the island’s terminal this June, compared to just 36,020 in the same period of 2011.
International traffic was up an impressive 12 percent, while the number of domestic visitors has also increased dramatically. Although the majority of international travelers came to Cozumel real estate from the U.S.,the Mexican Ministry of Tourism announced that the number of Canadian,British,South American,Italian,Japanese and German visitors has also increased dramatically.
At least part of the increase in air traffic to Cozumel has stemmed from an ancient Mayan ritual that has experienced a renewed interest this year, perhaps in light of the coming end of the Mayan calendar this December. Each year,Mayans from cities along the shore would make a pilgrimage to Cozumel to worship Ixchel, their goddess of fertility.
The ancient Mayans believed the worship of Ixchel would bring balance to the natural world and is one of the most ancient Mayan traditions that is still practiced today. Although the ritual experienced a period of time when it was not practiced after the Spanish conquest, the custom experienced a rebirth in 2006 at Xcaret, a large eco-park located nearly 40 miles south of Cancun along the Riviera Maya.
Today, the ritual is marked by blessings from modern-day shamans, traditional dancers and authentic Mayan cuisine. Xcaret’s Mayan Market is a hub of activity leading up to the pilgrimage each year, as is the Yuri Knorozov Center,which is named for the Russian linguist who first deciphered the Mayan script and is dedicated to researching various aspects of Mayan culture.
In celebration of the goddess Ixchel, today pilgrims once again embark early in the morning to make the 17-mile journey from shore to Cozumel in a canoe, just as the ancient Mayans would have done.