Cacao comes from North America. It was first used as money, being exchanged for goods hundreds of years ago. It also had a very special place in all the Mayan traditions and ceremonies.
“Cacao ceremonies originally served as religious rituals for the ancient Native Mesoamerican cultures. Used as a tool to lift the spirits of the soon to be sacrificed, required in the marriage ceremony due to its link to fertility, and even a part of the baptism ceremony and the birth of the child. Cacao in the ancient Americas was used in virtually any ceremony of importance.” – thanks Chocovio for that!
Nowadays those rituals are being performed by the Maya deep in the Guatemalan jungle, but also by certain communities more accessible for tourists.
San Marcos la Laguna
San Marcos la Laguna is a very special place. I read a lot about its spiritual vibe, peaceful meditation places, and alternative medicine movement. It’s new, it’s weird, I like it. I decided to give it a shot and see what is all the fuss about.
First of all, you access San Marcos by boat from Panajachel, a village on the side of the Lake Atitlan. From the very first moments, I knew that I didn’t belong here. It’s a very small community of ex-pats, that live a very hippie life in this small village. The locals have been pushed further away from the lake and are nowhere to be seen in the “center”.
Everyone seemed to be high and barefoot, wearing large, comfortable clothing. I sat down at a falafel place (in the middle of the jungle in Guatemala! It definitely was a place for tourists). Some guys came along playing a guitar, checking out the new arrival to the village. Fine. Everyone was pretty nice.
Reikki and shamannism
The falafel place was filled with posters of the local “spiritual guides” advertising their offers. There was one for a Reikki seance, Tarot reading, Yoga, Meditation, and Ayahuaska retreat in the jungle. The Ayahuaska one was particularly funny to me because the guy was introducing himself as a seasoned shaman who will guide you in your spiritual adventure. He will spend 3 days in the jungle with you and you will come back a new person. The guy in the picture was clearly around 25 years old, white, and (probably) German. Haha no way, I am not going anywhere with you!
There is also a Meditation Piramide. People go there on silent retreats. Everyone is wearing white and they have a very private space right next to the lake.
I can’t stress out how far away this all is from my comfort zone. I came to San Marcos for a new, weird experience and I definitely got it!
I am here. What now? I need to participate in at least one of those insane activities. It’s part of the experience. I rented an AirBnB for a “local” ex-pat. He was super nice and helped me organize some things. It was perfect, the next day I had a Meditation meeting, Cacao Ceremony, and an Ecstatic Dance scheduled, all in one day!
So we were a group for around 20 people. We arrive at the place where the ceremony will have taken place. At the entrance, we are being instructed that today, and on every Sunday, there is no talking in the house, because the people in it want to clean the aura. Ok, fair enough, let’s do this in silence.
We all sit in a circle, some people meditate. Finally, the Master of the Ceremony arrives. He has posters prepared explaining what the ceremony is and what are we going to do today. No worries, we were not going to carifice anything or anybody. This particular ceremony was oriented towards meditation. It was going to help all of us to get more centered and composed. Sounds good.
As we begin to pass the hot cacao (with spices, no sugar, just like the Mayans used to drink it) the Master says: (out loud!) “I am very sorry to break my vows of silence, I just wanted to say how grateful I am for all those beautiful souls who joined us today. You are amazing, thank you so much for being here. Today is a very sad day for Equador, my suggestion is to concentrate our thoughts around all the people suffering over there”. Not cool men, we don’t break the silence for an announcement. Not cool. But at least it was for a good cause, so I let it go.
We continue to pass the cacao. People start to get into some kind of trance, gently dancing with the cacao close to their hearts. Others just sit with their eyes closed. I was laughing internally thinking how much I do not belong here. But I stayed composed, closed my eyes, and tried to get the most of this unique experience.
Suddenly, the ceremony master breaks the silence again! This time he seriously got on my nerves. “Hey guys, I am so sorry to break the silence again, but just so you know, those who didn’t pay for their participation can still do it at the entrance”. No wayyyy. Such a spiritual vibe. I couldn’t believe it. There went all of the peace that some people might have achieved. I know that I was definitely done with trying to stay serious about this cacao ceremony.
This was even weirder. It’s just not for me. People dancing around to electronic music pretending that it is a transcendent experience. The whole idea of the ecstatic dancing is to let yourself go and just let your body dictate the movement. Sounds great. Sounds freeing. Sounds real. Right?
Wrong! When people started to go into trances, rolling on the floor and frenetically throwing their hands in the air, I decided that it is time for me to go home.
Overall it was a good experience (because it was new) and I definitely see why some people might enjoy those things so much. The idea behind it is great! The only thing that I would object was the execution. Anyway, if you are looking for something new and a bit unusual, San Marcos la Laguna is definitely the place to visit.
You might also like: