The global interest in the interpretations that the Maya calendar predicted horrific catastrophes on December 21, 2012 might not sound like a tourism draw for Mexico, but that’s exactly what it appears to be. And the indigenous people of southeast Mexico are demanding inclusion in the official programs planned for this year aimed at taking advantage of this interst.
IPSNews.com reports that indigenous organizations are resentful that they were excluded from the design process of the Maya World promotion plan that was launched by the Mexican government on January 16. The promotion hopes to lure domestic and foreign tourists to the indigenous regions that hold dozens of ruins of ancient Mayan cities which are scattered in five southeast states.
“Our voices were not heard,” Aretmio Kaamal, genearl coordinator of the non-governmental Permanent Forum on Indigenous Policy Kuxa’ano’on (Mayan for ‘we live’) told IPS. “Once again, the government has acted without consulting us. The only ones who will benefit are corporations.” Kuxa’ano’on was formed in 2005, it advocates for the rights of Mexico’s indigenous peoples in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán.
The Mexican government’s slight against the Indigenous organizations isn’t the only issue—there is also the concern of potential damage and contamination to these sacred Mayan sites.
“The focus is purely commercial, with no consideration for our culture, our roots, or our traditions,” Kaamal said.
The Washington Post reported on January 12 that the Mexican Tourism Department said it would spend $8 million promoting tourism to the “Mayan World,” an area in southeast Mexico that extends to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Tourism Secretary Gloria Guevara told the Post that she expects 52 million tourists over the 1 1/2 years of the plan, which would be 12 million more than usual.
The global interest in the Mayan ‘doomsday’ prophecy is, according to the representatives of the indigenous people, misunderstood.
“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,”.IPS reports.
“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.”
That hasn’t stopped the government from pouring an investment of approximately $49 million into the Maya World Programme, a lot more than the initial tally of $12 million reported by the Post. The 52 million domestic and foreign tourists the plan hopes to attract would bring in around $14 billion in tourism-related income into the country. There are events planned that will include the archaeological, astronomical and gastronomic.
It appears the government’s plans have been has created in a vacuum, with a large percentage of the indigenous population simply unaware of what’s going on.
Cecilio Solis, president of the Mexican Indigenous Tourism Network (RITA), which was founded in 2002 by 32 indigenous enterprises, told IPS that his members from central and southern Mexico report knowing nothing of the official events planned for their regions. “We don’t want this to be treated like Hollywood entertainment or a local-color attraction,” he said. “It has to do with history and the passage of generations; it’s part of our spiritual heritage.”
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