Offering a variety of cultural celebrations throughout the year, Cozumel provides wonderful opportunities for travellers to experience the true spirit of the island. One of Cozumel’s time-honoured traditions is the festival at El Cedral, April 29 to May 3, which has taken place in Cozumel every year for the past 150 years.
Located off of the island’s main road, about 10 miles south of San Miguel, the ruins at El Cedral are known as the location first discovered by the Spanish on May 3, 1518. Each year the festival of El Cedral is celebrated at the site of the ruins to commemorate this day, known as the Day of the Holy Cross (D’a de la Santa Cruz).
During the “War of Castes” in 1848, inhabitants of Sabán, a small town on the mainland of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, were driven out by the natives who attacked the population and demolished the town’s only church.
Casimiro Cardenas, one of the survivors, was holding a small wooden cross when he awoke, thus believing that it was the cross that saved his life. Eleven families of Sabán fled to Cozumel in search of refuge, taking with them the small wooden cross. Once on Cozumel, Casimiro Cardenas and the other refugees swore an oath to pay homage to the holy cross.
They vowed that if saved from torment and sickness they would celebrate God’s grace during the same time every year for the rest of their lives and the lives of their descendants.
At the fair of El Cedral, both locals and visitors can enjoy the many food stands, games, dancing and shopping displayed throughout the week-long festival. Some of the key events during the festival are:
Friday, April 29, Quintana Roo State Governor, Felix A. Gonzales Canto will conduct the opening ceremony accompanied by important representatives from the area, following the first official “Gran Carrera de Caballos” (horse race).
That evening, a concert by Pablo Montero and his Mariachi will also be presented. Saturday, April 30, El Cedral celebrates Kids’ Day with an open party at the fair and the presentation of the Popular Dance by Group “Fenómeno.”
Sunday, May 1, early afternoon, celebration of the Holy Mass, and closing the day with a Lupita D’alesio concert. Monday, May 2, beginning in the afternoon, the “Gran Corrida de Toros” (bullfight). Tuesday, May 3, the day begins with the celebration of the Holy Mass, followed by the local art exhibition sponsored by the Direction of Education and Culture and the Foundation of Parks and Museums.
On May 3, the Day of the Holy Cross, Cozumelenos dress up in formal attire and perform traditional folk dances at the El Cedral main square on the final evening of the celebration. Particularly of note that evening are the traditional “Head of the Pig” and “The Ribbon” dances that are performed. The event also features cattle exhibitions, races, rides and bullfights.
“El Cedral is a very important part of our history and it is one of the events that best reflects Cozumel’s culture,” Javier Aranda Pedrero, Executive Director, Fideicomiso de Promoción Turistica de Cozumel (Cozumel Tourism Foundation).
“Visitors joining us for the Day of the Holy Cross celebrations will have the opportunity to experience the island’s traditions through the folk dances and activities that take place throughout the festival.”
El Cedral, now a quaint village, was once used for the worship of idols and as place to make offerings to the gods.
Visitors are invited to explore the ruins of El Cedral, nestled among Cozumel’s lush jungles, and can see the area by guided tour. Tours are available via horseback or a four-wheel drive vehicle.
By venturing to El Cedral, travellers will experience a piece of ancient history as they go through the church’s structure and intricate arch that remains. Inside the ancient structure, paint and stucco that were used by the Maya to adorn the walls are still visible.
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