The ancient Mayan village of El Cedral was discovered in 1518 by Spanish conquistadors but its ancient ruins date back to 800 A.D. El Cedral has a rich history embellished with legend of early Mayans who inhabited the island of Cozumel, Mexico and revolted against the European population that controlled the island politically and economically. The Caste War of Yucatan raged from 1847 until 1901 and much of the Mayan ruins were destroyed during the war. Most of what was left was later destroyed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers when it made room for the island’s first airport.
Today there isn’t much left of the old Mayan Temple and ancient ruins but, with the help of knowledgeable guides and long standing legend, one can imagine the ancient robust Mayan community that was once thrived there.
According to history and legend, during the Caste War of Yucatan, a group of Mayans descended upon the ancient village of Saban and planned to kill all the white people living there and inhabitants of the village hid in a local church only to be discovered by warriors who killed many of the villagers.
One of the wounded survivors was a young man named Carimiro Cardenas who endured the attack while holding a tiny crucifix in his hands which he felt had protected and saved him from dying along with the others. Cardenas made a promise that he would organize an annual religious festival once he was safe from the carnage and that his descendants would carry the tradition forward into future generations.
This was the origin of the El Cedral Festival, the first of which was held on April 23, 1848 with a dawn prayer ritual, followed by morning and evening prayers and ended after nine consecutive days with solemn rituals of sacrifice. Since the first Festival in 1848, the “Holy Cross Festival” is organized by descendants of families who founded the villages of El Cedral and San Miguel and continue to participate in what is now a non-religious celebratory annual festival known as “La Feria del Cedral.” This annual event is also popular with newcomers who can enjoy a wide array of festival activities that include live music, dancing, rodeos, horse racing, sporting and cultural events.
Although the tropical Mexican island of Cozumel has changed a lot over the years, locals and tourists alike can enjoy a wide range of popular scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing activities. Anyone visiting the island of Cozumel, Mexico in late April or early May will also be able to participate in the traditional El Cedral Festival.
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