Have you ever seen lights flickering through the grass on hot nights in Yucatán? They are fireflies, or as the Maya call them, Cocay; and there is a beautiful legend on how they got their light. Let me tell you about it.


Maya elders tell us that a long time ago, there was a man who was loved by everyone; and who had the gift of curing illnesses. When the sick came to see him, he would take a green stone out of his pocket and whisper a few words while holding it in his hands. That was enough to make all diseases disappear.


One morning, the man went for a walk in the jungle to look at the birds, when all of a sudden a heavy downpour began to fall. As he ran for shelter, he didn’t notice that he dropped his green stone and when he arrived home, someone was already expecting him. He wanted to cure a sick child and reached into his pocket, that’s when he noticed that his stone was missing. To find it, the man enlisted the help of several animals: the deer, the hare, the vulture, and the Cocay – or firefly – arrived. Asking them to search every road, cave, and corner of the jungle, the man offered a reward to whoever found the precious green stone.



The animals ran in search of the stone. The deer found it first, but liked it so much that he didn’t want to return it and swallowed it instead. The deer then had a terrible bellyache, spat the stone out, and ran away in fear. The Cocay was the most diligent of all the animals, and searched every nook and cranny of the jungle. The vulture got tired of flying high in the sky, never coming close enough to the ground to find the stone. The hare ran very fast and did not stop to look around. In the end, only the Cocay kept looking with great care.


Suddenly, the Cocay imagined a spark of light and flew immediately to the place where he visualized the stone. At the same time, he felt that his body began to glow, lighting his path. He found the stone where he had pictured it would be and took it back to its owner. The man recognized the Cocay’s noble efforts, dedication, and perseverance. “You have your own light, little Cocay, and from now on, you will always have it to guide your way,” the man told him. That is why today we can see the Cocay shining bright in the middle of the night.




Article 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 Adam Hlse, Kevin Wong, and Marek Piwnicki via Unsplash for use in Yucatán Today.

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