“Trekker, who goes on the trails, on the old trails of the Mayab,” as the beautiful Yucatecan song says, with words by Antonio Médiz Bolio and music by Guty Cárdenas; a song that evokes the feeling and life of the Maya who walked with solid steps along the trails of this land.
Premiered at the Bosque de Chapultepec in México City in 1931, “Caminante del Mayab” is one of the most beautiful Yucatecan songs, not only because it honors the Maya people’s feelings and tells us about what the walkers experienced on the trails of their beloved land, but also because it tells us about some unique species of Yucatecan fauna such as the “pu’ujuy” bird, the “xtacay” bird, and the firefly, “cocay.”
We talked with don José Alcocer Sansores, who shared with us anecdotes and the life story of one trekker, his uncle and godfather, Daniel Moo. “When I hear that song I immediately think of my uncle, of Maya origin, who lived that exact life, walking from his town (Tekit) until he arrived to the city.”
Don José told us that a trekker is one who, with sandals made by hand from pieces of leather and henequén, walks the trails of the Maya jungle with great agility, often opening his path with his machete as he goes along. The Maya used to walk early in the morning to the countryside to work, whether to the cornfield, to hunt, or to the chicle or henequén hacienda. They woke up before dawn and ate a breakfast of water with “pozol” (corn dough), accompanied by chile habanero, out of a gourd. The corn satisfies hunger and it has enough nutrients to give enough energy for the workday. Even today you can still find this basic food in many communities.
Used to walking for many “leguas,” (Maya measurement of approximately 4 km), before stopping for a well-deserved break, the walkers guided themselves by the sun’s position for orientation; and they usually returned before sunset. During those journeys, the “pu’ujuy” bird constantly flapped its wings in front of the walkers of the Mayab as the night started to fall, while the fireflies lit their path, just as the song says.
They used to wear pants held up by a “mecate” (rope) instead of a belt, a long-sleeved shirt made of coarse cotton to protect themselves from the sun, espadrilles, and a henequén “sabucán” (bag), with a machete or bow and arrows (if they were hunting). They also took a “guaje” or gourd, to refresh themselves with water from a well or cenote that they found along the way, whose water was pure and suitable for drinking.
The Maya were (and still are) natural field workers, who walk freely on their lands, in harmony with nature at every step. A painting by the Yucatecan artist Fernando Castro Pacheco called “El Caminante del Mayab,” on exhibit at the MACAY museum, also tells the story of the steps of the Maya throughout the trails and lands of Yucatán.
“Every moon, every year, every day, every wind walks and passes by,” Chilam Balam, Chumayel
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
Born in Mérida, Violeta is a communicologist dedicated to writing and creating content on tourism, fashion, and entrepreneurship. She has recently started working as an English-Spanish translator.
Photography by Hacienda Sotuta de Peón and AJ Kim for use in Yucatán Today.
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