There’s a common expression in Yucatecan Spanish that goes something like “I looked for it, but I couldn’t look for it.” Non-Yucatecos love to be puzzled by it, without knowing that it’s a direct translation from Maya language. In the Maya worldview, many concepts are twofold, with meanings that are not opposite or antagonistic, but complementary. Just as it happens with the words we use for “search” and “find,” which in Maya are both Kaxaan, it happens with words like “love” and “hurt” (Yaaj), and with “lend” and “ borrow” (Páay).


The most important culture, music, and spirituality festival in the Maya world, Páayt’aan, takes its name from this idea: T’aan is the voice, the speech; Páayt’aan is a voice that is borrowed and lent at the same time. 


Shaman, Páayt'aanIt may seem difficult to grasp the logic of an event as big as Páayt’aan. It’s understandable: over four days (from March 17 to 20), the beautiful magical town of Izamal will host more than 200 simultaneous activities. Some of them are paid (through “passports” or tickets, available online at, but many of them are free for everyone who finds themself at the K’iiwiik, the main square at Izamal. 


One of Páayt’aan’s aims is to honor the Maya culture and work. This is reflected, for example, in spaces of experiences and traditions that will take place every day. Throughout them, visitors can see traditional doctors, Sobadores (Maya chiropractors), and herbalists, all in one place. A very valuable element that differentiates Páayt’aan is its desire not to be just a voice, but a megaphone, amplifying and echoing everyone who wishes to both express themselves and listen, regardless of their origin. The activities literally begin at sunrise, with the lighting of the sacred fire at 6:15 am, and continue simultaneously throughout the day and until 10 pm, with workshops, concerts, video mappings, and culinary experiences.  


With so many activities happening at the same time, how do you choose? You can decide right now which part of yourself you want to focus your experience in the Páayt’aan: your soul? your body? your mind? Each of the activities is mainly focused on one of them. You can practice Kinam, the Mesoamerican alternative to yoga, just as easily as you can take an archaeoastronomy workshop, or listen to the live frequencies of a majestic Ceiba tree. The full list of activities, available at, is organized under that logic.


Of course, if spontaneity and adventure are more your thing, just head to Izamal and let yourself be guided by the wide range of options. Between the endless activities and the wonderful scenery, it’ll be hard to go wrong! 



By Alicia Navarrete
Communicologist born circumstantially in México City, but who says “uay” since 1985. Life has allowed me to see the world, which in turn has allowed me to discover how much I love the place where I live. 



Photography by Violeta H. Cantarell for its use in Yucatán Today.

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