Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned explorer of the region, you cannot escape the palpable mysticism that permeates every corner of Yucatán; and what better place to showcase this than a cenote? Cenotes are among the essential sites to explore during your visit to the state. Anyone that’s had the privilege of looking at a cenote’s crystal-clear waters in the deep, and then looked up at the sky above, beyond the stalactites, can attest to the electrifying energy that some of these natural wonders possess.
Beyond their ethereal ambiance, cenotes are also a testament to the profound cultural and spiritual significance they held for the Maya civilization. It’s no wonder that many tales and legends interweave with these otherworldly havens, carrying secrets of the past and prophecies of the future.
Such is the case of the legend of the Xcabachén cenote, a small body of water inside the cave bearing the same name in Maní Centro. Despite its modest size, it lies at the heart of an ominous legend. It is said that everything began when the Spanish arrived on the Peninsula, eager to expand their empire. However, the Xiu chieftain had a bold plan to confront them and protect their land.
The Xius placed two bags of magical maize inside the Xcabachén cenote. The tale says that those who consumed the maize would turn into stone warriors, condemned to immobility until a sorcerer freed them. The chieftain hoped that these stone warriors would come back to life at the right moment to fight against the Spaniards.
The legend forewarns of an epic battle where the resurrected stone warriors will fight alongside a feathered serpent, a symbol of wisdom and protection in Maya mythology. Together, they’ll challenge the invaders and restore balance in the Peninsula.
However, this struggle will come at a cost. Because of the battle, Earth will be left completely devoid of water everywhere—except for the crystal-clear waters of the Xcabachén cenote. Amid the despair, people from all over the world will flock to Maní to quench their thirst. There, they will be greeted by an elderly woman and the same feathered serpent emerging from the cenote, offering them water on a Cocoyol fruit shell.
The elderly woman will have a demand: in exchange for the precious liquid, people will have to surrender a newborn baby. The babies will be handed over to the feathered serpent as nourishment, ensuring the survival and renewal of the cycle of life.
According to the legend, this arrangement will come to fruition when the voices of men and sounds from animals echo from the depths of the cenote’s caves. It will be at that moment when the elderly woman and the feathered serpent will manifest themselves to fulfill their purpose. A cool fact: some say the elderly woman who guards the cenote is the witch at the heart of the legend of the Dwarf of Uxmal.
It’s not surprising, then, that Maní locals know it as “the center of the universe.” This Magical Town, in addition to its charm and remarkable place in history, is also home to a truly mystical cave where many legends intertwine, all pointing to the age-old value of these natural wonders.
Calle 27 x 30, Centro, Maní
By Sara Alba
Panamanian with a Mexican accent since 2005. Editorial Assistant, a walking jukebox, and always lurking on social media, in the constant search of hidden gems to visit and share.
Photography by Yucatán Today, and Sara Alba for its use in Yucatán Today.
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