ONTD Political

Modern Mayans see end of 13th baktun as end of age of suffering, hope 14th baktun brings positive ch

2:15 pm - 12/19/2012

December 21, 2012, has generated many stories regarding the end of the world, said to be linked to a Mayan prophecy. DW looks at what the date means for Mayans in Guatemala.

The ancient Mayans observed the constellations, the sun's movements, the planets and the stars. They read climatic cycles, the duration of day and night, the heat and cold, the rain and the drought. And they made a year, which was divided into 18 20-day months.

At the end of the year, Mayans contemplated the past, the present and the future during five holy days. So the Mayan calendar year was 365 days - the same length as our Gregorian calendar.

Back to the future

The Mayans are not just an ancient civilization with ruins that astound tourists - they are the majority of Guatemala's population. They have their own language and practice agriculture as their ancestors did a thousand years ago. And the Mayans are struggling to survive in a modern, globalizing world.

Despite the ancient Mayan calendar causing a lot of excitement in Western media, because it supposedly says that the world will end on December 21, several Mayans living in present-day Guatemala see things differently.

Maria Mateo, a Mayan farmer from Popcomchi, doesn't believe that the world will end this month.

December 21 refers to the end of the thirteenth baktun and represents an opportunity for hope, she said. In the Mayan long count calendar, a baktun is a period of almost 400 years.

Mayans believe that there will be a change - but not on a specific date. And everyone can contribute to the change, Mateo noted.


"People must really begin to protect nature. The Mayan people and especially the women must unite, join their forces and fight for Mother Earth," she added.

New era
December 21, which is the end of the 13th baktun, marks the beginning of new era for many Mayans, who hope that their standard of living will improve.

Western media has used the Mayan calendar as an opportunity for off-the-wall coverage, which isn't related to Mayans today, said sociologist Virgilio Alvarez, Director of the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO) in Guatemala.

"Sometimes, Mayans are still romanticized as the poor, wild indigenes who need support and wear feathers on their heads," he added.

But Mayans are mostly in a process of globalization after being discovered as a consumer group by multinational corporations, Alvarez noted. Businesses are trying to sell everything, from smartphones to tablet PCs, to Mayans.


Hope for a better future

In a joint statement, Mayan spiritual leaders expressed their worries and hopes for a new era. They point to the destruction of nature, the effects of climate change and the extinction of some animal species as events that Mayans experience directly.


"More than 80 percent of our people live in poverty. Our mountains, forests and rivers have been stolen by major corporations, which are building hydroelectric power stations, mining coal, doing oil research or growing a monoculture crop," the spiritual leaders stated.


The natural resources and rights of Mayans still being violated today, as they were 400 years ago at the beginning of the 13th baktun, the spiritual leaders added.

Vitalino Similox, a Presbyterian priest, was one of the writers of the joint statement. The priest, who stood to be Guatemala's vice president on the ticket of Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú, linked the change to ending an era of suffering.

Similox believes that this is the beginning of a time of healing. "The spiritual leaders say that every person is born with a certain gift," he said, noting that several talented Mayans were born in the present baktun.
"There's hope that they will revive classic Mayan math, science, astronomy and art. So it's not an illusion to believe that Mayans will become stronger with time," Similox added.


source: DW
from a lot of macros floating around internet recently there's a fair number of people that apparently think the Mayans are extinct.
violetrose 20th-Dec-2012 02:27 am (UTC)
from a lot of macros floating around internet recently there's a fair number of people that apparently think the Mayans are extinct.

lbr they're either an extinct ~exotic culture~ or indigenous/non-white people that just like to whine about poverty and oppression even though we've given them so much omg.

It's disgusting, really. A culture doesn't matter to us unless we're appropriating it. But these people sound resilient and obviously want to preserve their culture and create a better future for their next generations. I hope it happens.
keestone 20th-Dec-2012 02:40 am (UTC)
from a lot of macros floating around internet recently there's a fair number of people that apparently think the Mayans are extinct.

Yeah, that's been bugging me. This isn't frigging Atlantis we're talking about. I'd been wondering what the opinions of Mayan peoples about the ridiculously overblown misinterpretation of their old calendars might be.
fenris_lorsrai 20th-Dec-2012 03:04 am (UTC)
I can't find article right now, but one I'd seen basically indicated that the proper thing to do at roll over of calender was "yeah, we lived to see the calender roll over! go us! party like its 13'0'0'0! wtf is wrong with you people who are not excited that civilization has lasted this long? hooray, we're not dead!"


also, a lot of these macros feature Aztec or Inca artifacts. FAIL.

keestone 20th-Dec-2012 01:31 pm (UTC)
Total FAIL.

That's a pretty sensible way to celebrate a calendar roll over IMHO. When you think about it, it kind of is amazing we've survived this long as a species, let alone as varying civilizations that have created some pretty cool things along the way. Lots of room for improvement of course.
flyingwild 20th-Dec-2012 06:25 am (UTC)
A good friend of mine is Guatemalan and of Mayan descent and he things it's freaking ridiculous.
rylee900 20th-Dec-2012 03:20 am (UTC)
Ok I needed this rn lol-I know it's ridiculous but yeah. I'll be pretty happy on the 22nd.

That said can people just..not? Of course Mayans aren't 'extinct' wtf
Honestly it's like some white guys found an ancient calendar that they didn't understand and god forbid they should ask the people of the culture behind it. It's not the same as theirs so surely these people must have some mystery meaning. Ugh.

Edited at 2012-12-20 03:25 am (UTC)
thelilyqueen 20th-Dec-2012 05:29 am (UTC)
The only thing I'm afraid of out of the ordinary for the 21st is that someone who's taken these wild ideas (world ending, etc.) for truth will harm themselves or others. REALLY don't want that.
rylee900 20th-Dec-2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah this is my main worry as well :/
sakuraberries 20th-Dec-2012 04:53 am (UTC)
I...am one of those folks who had no clue that there were still people who identify as Mayan. Feeling extremely stupid and ashamed of myself right now, ngl. Thank you for this article, OP, it was quite enlightening for me.
lil_insanity 20th-Dec-2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
Yeah, right there with you.
moonshaz 20th-Dec-2012 11:31 pm (UTC)
I knew there were people living today who are descendants of the original Mayans, but not that there were any who actually still identify as Mayan. So it was fascinating to me to read this!
romp 20th-Dec-2012 07:20 am (UTC)
It's not like we're taught otherwise in school. I saw Maya and other indigenous people from Mexico (mainly Oaxaca) but no one spoke of them as being anything but Mexican. The arguments about English Only in schools never mentioned how many kids had Spanish as a second language and weren't literate in it. And the year spent on Aztec/Maya/Inca was all ancient history and ruins.

It seems obvious that the people didn't disappear along with the temples but that's definitely not how it was taught. I never understood the whole calendar topic anyway. It's stone--of course it could only go so far into the future. IDGI
nonnycat 20th-Dec-2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
This. I was homeschooled but when I went to college at 16 some of the courses I took were history. So, college level history, one lecture was devoted to Aztecs/Mayans/Spanish conquest, and it was heavily, heavily insinuated that the indigenous peoples were wiped out almost entirely by the Spanish.

The Mayan and Aztec calendar systems are fascinating to me, but they are poorly understood by... pretty much everyone. Regardless of that they were built into stone, the whole point of the system is that it is cyclical. Even the Wiki article makes that clear. People just can't be arsed to do a little research before they hit "Share."
fenris_lorsrai 20th-Dec-2012 04:42 pm (UTC)
Mayan writing is only STARTING to be decifered now. for the longest time about all they could figure out was rulers names! That the spanish actively burned books also didn't help in this regard. there's maybe a half dozen mayan books left (including one that then survived a firebombing!) and the carved texts and no rosetta stone for the lot.

a lot of the Mayan ruins vanished into the jungle and were really hard to find unless you tripped over it on foot.... up til about the last five years. There's now a way to look at satellite photos of canopy and how much infrared light is absorbed by leaves. Tropical soil is generally poor... except around stone ruins which provide additional nutrients, so the canopy is actually a subtly different color hundreds of feet above!

The exact technique isn't widely publicized so as to discourage looting, but its turned up a LOT of ruins in the last few years.
romp 20th-Dec-2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I have to justify discarding older books about the Maya but this is why I do it. I understanding there have been big breakthroughs in the writing and some misconceptions about the way the empire crumbled have been discovered. It's definitely not a case of "history doesn't change."
nonnycat 21st-Dec-2012 01:42 am (UTC)
Huh! I hadn't heard about that. That's pretty awesome that they're finding out so much more. Most of what I had read, admittedly, was about the Aztecs, which I think? had a higher surviving body of work.

Since it sounds like this is a topic of interest to you also, do you have books or such you would recommend that talk about the new things they are discovering? :)
fenris_lorsrai 21st-Dec-2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
Honestly, there's relatively little out in books yet, so the internet is a good option. You can follow ontd_science or natlgeographic which just feeds articles from NatGeo. I think you can set up specific alerts too.

There's several articles under the archaeology tag on ONTD_science that can give you a good jump off point for more specific recent events.

(I know PBS has had some recent stuff as well, but damned if I can figure out correct program name right now...)
lil_insanity 20th-Dec-2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
Yep. My college level history classes also heavily implied that the Aztecs and Mayans were completely wiped out.
squeeful 20th-Dec-2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
Isn't that kind of like saying there are no Italians because Rome fell?
romp 20th-Dec-2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
Now that you mention it... I've read that modern Italian culture owes more to the laid-back Etruscans than the empire-building Romans. The way the English almost fetishized the Greeks and Romans, they may have been disappointed.

God forbid England, and now the US, recognize that empires don't last forever.
magli 20th-Dec-2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
I went to the hairdresser to day and as I was walking out the door she cheerfully went: Merry Christmas! The world is supposed to end tomorrow!

I was like ....err, thanks, same to you...?
celtic_thistle 20th-Dec-2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
I'm so sick of how people are treating the Mayan calendar ending. It's not a ~prophecy~ and it doesn't mean that the world will be destroyed--it is viewed the beginning of a new age, like the article says. Also, the date coincides with some interesting and super rare astronomical events, which the Mayans predicted perfectly. Ugh @ people treating them like a bunch of silly superstitious fools~ when their mathematics were INCREDIBLY accurate. The fucking Spanish burned so much of their writing etc. >:( Such a waste, so disrespectful.

Thanks for posting this article!

Edited at 2012-12-20 11:52 pm (UTC)
roseofjuly 22nd-Dec-2012 05:14 am (UTC)
The thing that really boggles me about it is that no matter how many times you tell people this, not only will they ignore you but they will tell you YOU are wrong. The problem is that the belief isn't just an Internet meme - there are scholars and "experts" saying the same thing! I remember seeing a special on the History Channel a few years ago that explained that the Mayans believed that the world would end on December 21, 2012 - but they also explained that the Mayans were extinct, so...
roseofjuly 22nd-Dec-2012 05:12 am (UTC)
"More than 80 percent of our people live in poverty. Our mountains, forests and rivers have been stolen by major corporations, which are building hydroelectric power stations, mining coal, doing oil research or growing a monoculture crop," the spiritual leaders stated.

Ffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuu
distilledvanity 22nd-Dec-2012 01:09 pm (UTC)
Yep
distilledvanity 22nd-Dec-2012 12:56 pm (UTC)
I'm of Maya decent, my mother is Guatemalan. The good side of this is that more people know what Maya culture is and tourism in Mexico and Guatemala has increased. They need the money. The unfortunate thing is the total distorting of Maya belief and the annoying habit of news sources calling Maya people "Mayan." It sounds so ignorant!

And yeah people thinking Maya people don't exist anymore are really dumb. The Maya empire was destroyed by the Spaniards but of course there are still Maya people.

I watched the livestream of the new b'ak'tun ceremony in Tikal, everyone was really positive and happy. Some Maya were annoyed by the skewing of their big celebration being seen by the rest of the world as doomsday when in reality it's the total opposite but most people seemed to just take in stride, I think they are used to foreigners totally not understanding their culture.



Edited at 2012-12-22 01:08 pm (UTC)
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