Rigoberta Menchu, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is unhappy about the commercial hype over the supposed ancient Maya predictions of an end of the world on December 21.
The date marks the end of an era that lasted over 5,000 years, according to the Mayan “Long Count” calendar. Some believe that the date, which coincides with the December solstice, marks the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs — an idea ridiculed by scholars.
Nevertheless, millions of tourists are expected to flock to Mexico and Central America for celebrations that will include fireworks and concerts held at more than three dozen archaeological sites.
But don’t expect much authenticity, said Menchu, an indigenous Guatemalan of Maya ethnicity.
“The authentic celebration of the Mayas — that will not be seen by everyone, that is part of the private lives of the Mayas,” said Menchu late Monday as she marked the 20th anniversary of her Nobel win.
“We are going to bid farewell to the grandfather sun and will bid him farewell in thousands of ways,” Menchu said. “We don’t care what the government will do.”
The government of President Otto Perez has planned events at 13 archeological sites, especially at Tikal, some 530 kilometers (330 miles) north of Guatemala City.
Native Maya communities, however, have separate ceremonies planned at 11 other sites.
Menchu is hardly the first native Mayan to decry the exploitation of her heritage.
“We are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit,” Felipe Gomez, leader of the Maya alliance Oxlajuj Ajpop, said in October. “They are not telling the truth about time cycles.”
The Maya culture flourished between the years 250 and 900, then slowly entered a period of decadence ending around 1200.
Archeologists believe long catastrophic drought sparked political destabilization and triggered wars that led to the collapse of Maya culture.
Scholars say that December 21 simply marks the end of the old Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new one.