The indigenous people of southeast Mexico are demanding to be included in the official programmes planned for 2012 to take advantage of the world's interest in the "Mayan prophecy", while at the same time fearing a "doomsday tourism" that could damage and contaminate their sacred sites.
Indigenous organisations told IPS that they resented being excluded from the design process of the Maya World promotion plan launched by the government on Monday, Jan. 16 with the aim of luring domestic and foreign visitors to the indigenous regions of the five southeast states that hold the ruins of dozens of ancient Mayan cities.
"Our voices were not heard. Once again, the government has acted without consulting us. The only ones who will benefit are corporations," Artemio Kaamal, general coordinator of the non- governmental Permanent Forum on Indigenous Policy Kuxa'ano'on (Mayan for 'we live'), told IPS.
"The focus is purely commercial, with no consideration for our culture, our roots, or our traditions," he said.
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The campaign devised by the conservative government of Felipe Calderón will be conducted both in the country and in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and it is aimed at promoting the Mesoamerican region (present-day southeast Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras), where Mayan civilisation flourished.
With an investment of some 49 million dollars, the Maya World programme is expected to bring in 52 million domestic and foreign tourists and around 14 billion dollars in tourism-related income, including from a series of gastronomic, archaeological, and astronomical special events planned.
The apocalyptic forecasts are based on the Mayan calendar, which marks Dec. 21 as the end of a grand cycle of thirteen 144,000-day "baktuns", lasting 5,126 years, coinciding with the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere.
According to Mayan historians, the 13 Baktun began on Aug. 11, 3114 BC, and when it ends this December it will simply mean that another 144,000-day "long count" will start.
The programme and promotions planned by the government focus on the contributions of Maya culture, avoiding all reference to the apocalyptic interpretations of the meaning of the end of this calendar cycle, which indigenous leaders and historians dismiss as misguided or even intentionally distorted or triggered by hysteria.
"Our members from central and southern Mexico report that they know nothing of the official events planned for their regions. We don't want this to be treated like Hollywood entertainment or a local-colour attraction. It has to do with history and the passage of generations; it's part of our spiritual heritage," Cecilio Solís, president of the Mexican Indigenous Tourism Network (RITA), told IPS.