In 1847 one of Mexico's largest internal wars began. The Mayans went to war in the Yucatán Peninsula in what is called the Castes War. A group of whites and mestizos who lived in the village of Valladolid started a migration to find a new home and run away from the war.
When they reached the town of Sabán, they received notice that the Mayans were very close and looked for shelter at the church. The shelter was useless and they where attacked with machetes (a long wide knife) by a group of Mayans commanded by Cecilio Chi.
Many died in the attack. Amongst the wounded was a young man named Casimiro Cárdenas. He was covered in blood and held a small crucifix in his hand that he believed saved his life. This is now know as the Miracle of Sabán.
In the moment after he recovered consciousness, he made the sacred promise that if they ever reached a safe place and settled for the rest of their lives, every year, they would hold a solemn service to honor the holy cross.
The survivors of the attack continued their journey finally arriving to Cozumel. Among them was the young Casimiro Cárdenas. A year later, a second group of people, most of them of Mayan origin, arrived to the island and founded the village of El Cedral over the Mayan ruins called Oycib. Oycib was renamed Santa Maria in 1527 by the Spaniards. Casimiro Cárdenas made the decision to move with his group and live at the new community of El Cedral.
Soon after setting in El Cedral they celebrate the first services to honor the holy cross in which after praying they receive the toch (blessing with the cross). They also invited people from the main town of Cozumel to participate. Tradition that is still live. This tradition is still alive.
When Don Casimiro Cárdenas died, his wife continued the religious festivities. Today their descendants, the Cárdenas Montero family, are the keepers of the festivities of the holy cross of Sabán.
Years have passed and going to El Cedral, with the open invitation of the Cárdenas family to celebrate the holy cross hase become a tradition. Today this festivity is the oldest in the state with 144 years of uninterrupted celebration.
In the year of 1975 the authorities in agreement with the Cardenas family agreed to include along with the religious festivities the El Cedral fair, including not only religious festivities but commercial and recreational events.
Today people from the all over the Yucatán come to El Cedral every year to join the festivities that include regional handicraft exhibitions, horse races, bull fights, rooster fights, gastronomy, and many cultural events.
The religious festivities begin the 23rd of April with the alborada prayers,early dawn prayers. These are followed with day and night novenas, nine consecutive days of prayers, that end the 3rd of May with the solemn Dance of the Pig Head. Theset are offered to God as a sacrifice, as he sacrificed himself before on the cross. For the Mayans that live here the music and dance turn into energy that is given to the sun and the moon, Ixchel, to provide them with the energy to continue their divine work.
On the first day of the festivities the fair is inaugurated in an event at the El Cedral terrace. The tradition is that parents dress their children in regional costumes and walk with them around the terrace. Little boys are called mestizos and little girls are called capullitos (little cocoons).
After the walk, the festivities are formally declared inaugurated and the inaugural ribbon is cut by the Mayor of Cozumel and the custodian of the festivities. At the end the queen is crowned.
On the morning of May 3rd the people of El Cedral gather at the terrace and initiate a procession with the Holy Cross of Sabán to the village entrance where they wait for another procession that started at the junction of the road to El Cedral with the perimeter highway. Once they meet, together they continue the procession back through the streets of El Cedral to the terrace where a solemn mass is held.
The peak of the festivities is in the afternoon when the Dance of the Pig Head is performed. People are proud to dress and dance the Pig Head. To give you an idea of how important this dance is to the community, the state governor doesn't usually come for the inauguration but usually comes to this dance.
The last day of the festivities people gathers at the terrace for the closing ceremony. Cash prizes are given to the winners of the different events held during the festivities. Another year the promise that Casimiro Cárdenas made in 1847 was fulfilled.
El Cedral is a very small agricultural village at the south-center of the island. Some Cozumeleños have built their weekend homes in this area. The very small, very nice church is found at to the side of the Mayan ruins. During the festivities, the church is filled with candles. The streets are dressed with colored paper and the many crosses that are found on most of the houses facades are also dressed for the occasion. After the festivities El Cedral becomes, once again, a very serene place.