La fiesta belongs to Cozumel, as the colors red, white, and green to Mexico. No matter when you come to visit us on our beautiful island, there is always a celebration on Cozumel. In this article we describe the most important festivities on Cozumel and describe the most beautiful traditions behind them.
Cozumel festivities: Carnival in February
Festivities Cozumel: Carnival
The Cozumel Carnival is the most important carnival in Southeast Mexico and on the Yucatan Peninsula. Many visitors come for the carnival to Cozumel from all over Mexico and from other countries to see the famous processions. The Cozumel Carnival gives a deep insight into the warmth of its inhabitants, combined with the magic of the Caribbean. History books tell that the carnival comes from ancient rituals dedicated to the gods.
Every February, the Carnival transforms Cozumel into another world. The beautifully decorated streets fill with loud music and hot dances. The Cozumel Carnival actually begins two weeks earlier: The Cozumel Carnival King and Queen have to be elected and the city is preparing to the upcoming event.
Candidates compete on the radio and on the streets to win the election for the Cozumel Carnival King. During this time, the main square Benito Juarez is full of booths where typical food and Mexican beer can be bought. On election day, the candidates perform their show, accompanied by supporters and fans.
The next day there will be performances by the newly-elected Cozumel Carnival royal couple in the park Benito Juarez. The following week, further elections will be held for the carnival on Cozumel; for example, the best children’s performance, the best school performance and many more. The main parade of the Cozumel carnival takes place on Saturday, Sunday and Shrove Tuesday. There is a break on Carnival Monday.
After each performance at the Cozumel Carnival, the spectators can also dance and there is music until dawn. Colorful costumes, decorated cars and the number of visitors make the carnival on Cozumel an event that is deeply connected to the island.
El Cedral Fiesta of the holy cross – End of April, Beginning of May
Festivities Cozumel: El Cedral
Probably the oldest and most traditional of all Cozumel festivities is the Fiesta de la Santa Cruz (Ceremony of the Holy Cross), which has been expanded into a large fair. The origin of the famous festivity on Cozumel was in the caste war, a cruel civil war on the Yucatan Peninsula. The Maya fought with incredible brutality against Creoles, Mexican born descendants of the Spanish.
A man named Casimiro Cardenas sought protection from the approaching Maya and hid in a church in the village of Saban. When the Maya attacked, the shelter proved useless and many of those seeking protection died. Even Casimiro was badly wounded and survived only thanks to a cross in his hand. Casimiro was grateful that he was still alive. Therefore, he swore to God to hold a festival in his honor and repeat it every year, should he ever reach a safe place.
Fiesta in Cozumel: El Cedral
Cozumel festivities: Horse race El Cedral
The survivors of the heavy attack fled from the cruel war and reached the Isla Cozumel. There they founded the small town of El Cedral, over the ruins of the ancient city of Oycib. After their families had settled, Casimiro remembered his promise and celebrated the first of the festivities on Cozumel, the celebration of the Holy Cross. When Casimiro died, his wife continued the beautiful custom. Even today, the festival is hosted by the descendants of the family.
Today, the Cozumel Fiesta of El Cedral is the oldest of all the celebrations on Cozumel after 146 years without interruption. Local art is sold, there is plenty to eat and drink. Traditional events such as horse racing, bullfighting and cockfighting show the close integration with local traditions. Even the many new residents of Cozumel could not abolish these rituals yet.
Traditional Maya Crossing – May
The passage of the Maya to Cozumel in canoes is an ancient ritual that still takes place according to traditional rules. Twelve years ago, this event took place for the first time and has been receiving a lot of support ever since. By 5:30 in the morning, the participants get up, dress up and paint themselves. Some wear feathers like the ancient Maya did.
In Xcaret on the mainland, the rowers meet and begin their journey. Only canoes and paddles are allowed. They travel to the Chancanaab Natural Park on Cozumel, from where it then goes back to the mainland. The Yukatan Channel between the mainland and Cozumel is only 10 miles long, but there are some very strong currents. Therefore, the participants train long before the actual event for the exhausting round trip.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 canoes participate in the competition, with rowers from all over the world. Before the crossing starts, there are traditional rituals. A great event that is also very popular with spectators. The Yucatan Times newspaper provides interesting background information.