According to the ancient Maya calendar, Dec. 21, 2012 will mark the end of a grand cycle of 13 144,000-day “baktuns”, lasting 5,126 years.
“It’s offensive, it’s an insult, and it is contradictory for indigenous people to continue to be steeped in poverty while public funds are squandered on celebrating,” activist Ricardo Cajas, of the non-governmental Guatemalan Council of Maya Organisations (COMG), told IPS.
“There is nothing to celebrate,” he said. “This is an event involving traditional wisdom, which allows us to make an analysis of the ‘internal colonialism’ we see in Guatemala, where a dominant class keeps indigenous people in a state of subsistence and extreme poverty.”
In Guatemala, indigenous people make up close to 40 percent of the population of 15 million according to official statistics, although native organisations put the figure at over 60 percent.
But Guatemala has never had an indigenous president, and only 19 of the 158 members of the single-chamber Congress are Indians. And the only member of the cabinet who identifies himself as native is the minister of culture and sports, Carlos Batzín.
Governments in “Mesoamerica” – a cultural area extending from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, where advanced civilisations like the Maya flourished before Spain’s colonisation of the Americas – are planning major celebrations of the end of the Maya long-count calendar.
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The hype and promotion surrounding the end of the current era has led to a surge in global interest in the ancient Maya civilisation and to an explosion of tourism to Maya historical and cultural sites in Mesoamerica.
According to historians, the 13th baktun began on Aug. 11, 3114 BC and ends Dec. 21, 2012, and a new era begins the following day.
The end of the current baktun has also given rise to predictions of catastrophes and even prophecies about the end of the world, which have been debunked by indigenous leaders.