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Miami Beach first stop for Mexican ship of peace

A FIVE-MONTH JOURNEY TO PROMOTE PEACE — AND THE BEACH’S SISTER CITY OF COZUMEL — INCLUDES A YOUNG MEXICAN BOY ALONG FOR THE RIDE

BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to the Herald

Carlos Antonio Angulo Carrillo, 12, is embarking on a journey most children read about in fairy tales.

For five months, the Mexican child will hit the high seas with a crew of 12 men and a lone female — a pooch named Coco — on a ship similar to those in tales like Peter Pan.

But this ship won’t travel to Never Never Land. First stop on the months-long journey to spread an international message of peace?

Miami Beach.

The expedition, sponsored by the Beach’s sister city of Cozumel and funded by a Mexican businessman, stopped at the Miami Beach Marina Aug. 30.

Carlos and his crew arrived on the Zamna, a hand-crafted wooden ship named after an ancient Mayan high priest.

“I am very emotional to be a part of this project,” said Carlos, who is of Mayan descent and left his Cozumel home on Aug. 26.

At the Zamna’s first official stop, local schoolchildren and Mexican and Miami Beach officials welcomed the crew with open arms.

Two children from local middle schools — Emily Witt from Nautilus Middle School and Abigail Garcia from Fienberg Fisher K-8 Center — were the first to greet the boy.

The young girls won an essay contest on world peace to be the first to greet Carlos.

Carlos said he is thrilled to be spreading the message of peace across the world.

“Peace means friendship between the human race and it prevents problems with family and friends,” said Carlos, who is traveling with his father, Manuel Angulo Lopez, a tourism promoter in Cozumel. The Zamna will stop in 15 ports, including visits to Spain, Italy and Israel before ending its voyage in Greece.

The 110-foot ship is trimaran, a vessel with multiple hulls, motors and three masts.

Carlos first heard of the trip when his father read an advertisement in a local Cozumel newspaper. Dozens of children applied. The Cozumel government picked the winner.

The idea of building the Zamna came from ship captain Vital Alsar, who has more than 40 years of navigation experience.

The Zamna’s owner, Yucatan businessman Manuel Diaz Rubio, said 400 tons of Mexican wood were used, which came from trees in Chiapas, Veracruz, and Campache.

The ship is solely devoted to its singular mission and won’t be used for commercial purposes, Diaz said.

He said he turned down an offer from the Mexican network Televisa, which wanted to use it as a setting for a telenovela.

“But I said `no,’ ” said Diaz, who wouldn’t disclose how much the ship is worth. “This ship is built to spread the message of peace.”

The journey’s cost was also defrayed by private donations.

The ship was built over 14 months in Alvarado, Veracruz by 49 Mexican carpenters.

The Zamna’s design incorporates Egyptian, Greek and Mexican influences. The windows are decorated with images, such as birds, that evoke Mayan artistry.

The prow of the Zamna has a dove, a symbol of peace.

On the ship’s sails, the word “peace” is written in 24 languages.

It also has a makeshift chapel, where a ceramic figurine of the Virgin of Guadalupe sits on a table.

The ship carries 12 volunteer crewmen from different parts of the world including Spain, Canada, Mexico and the United States.

“We are here just to help and promote peace,” said Shayne Holden, a volunteer from Canada. “This is just like an adrenaline rush. This is an experience that will challenge me.”

The United Nations recently named Cozumel “The Island of Peace.”

“The bringing of peace is a spectacular way of uniting countries and cities,” said Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower.

Miami Beach and Cozumel have been sister cities for more than 10 years.

Carlos, who had already visited Miami for family vacation, said he is working on a diary of the trip to show his mother, Isela Carrillo. He will miss a portion of the school year in Cozumel, but said he’ll learn plenty on the trip.

“I am going to spend time in the water and gain experience from people I don’t know and with my father, Carlos Manuel,” said Carlos, who plans to stay aboard the entire five month trip.

The crew was invited to several Miami Beach events, including paying a visit to a local school.

They departed from Miami Beach Wednesday.

The Zamna’s next stop will be New York, where the crew will pay tribute to the victims of Sept. 11.

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