The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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December 21, 2012

Mexico’s Maya heartland greets dawn of new era

MERIDA, Mexico — Ceremonial fires burned and conches sounded off as dawn broke over the steps of the main pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza Friday, marking what many believe is the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar.

Some have interpreted the prophetic moment as the end of the world. The hundreds gathered in the ancient Mayan city, however, said they believed it marked the birth of a new and better age.

Genaro Hernandez stood with his arms outstretched to the morning light, all clad in white, facing the pyramids’ grey stone, to welcome the new era.

“This world is being reborn as a better world,” said Hernandez, a 55-year old accountant who wore an expression of bliss.

No one was quite sure at what time the Mayas’ 13th Baktun would officially end on this Dec. 21. Some think it already ended at midnight. Others looked to Friday’s dawn here in the Maya heartland. Some had later times in mind. One thing became clear to many on the site by Friday morning: The world had not ended.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History even suggested that historical calculations to synchronize the Mayan and Western calendars might be off a few days. It said the Mayan Long Count calendar cycle might not really end until Sunday.

Whatever the details, the chance to mark epochal change seemed to be the main concern among celebrants drawn to the Yucatan peninsula.

Thousands of people filled Chichen Itza or were waiting to get in, including Buddhists, pagan nature worshippers, druids and followers of Aztec and Maya religious traditions. Some kneeled in attitudes of prayer, some seated with arms outstretched in positions of meditation, all facing El Castillo, the massive main pyramid.

Ceremonies were being held at different sides of the pyramid, including one led by a music group that belted out American blues and reggae-inspired chants. Others involved yelping and shouting, and drumming and dance, such as one ceremony led by spiritual master Ollin Yolotzin.

“The world was never going to end, this was an invention of the mass media,” said Yolotzin, who leads the Aztec ritual dance group Cuautli-balam. “It is going to be a good era. ... We are going to be better.”

Ivan Gutierrez, a 37-year-old artist who lives in the nearby village, stood before the pyramid and blew a low, sonorous blast on a conch horn. “It has already arrived, we are already in it,” he said of the new era. “We are in a frequency of love, we are in a new vibration.”

But it was unclear how long the love would last: A security guard quickly came over and asked him to stop blowing his conch shell, enforcing the ruin site’s ban on holding ceremonies without previous permits.

John Hoopes, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas, was using the opportunity to talk about how myths are created.

“You don’t have to go to the far corners of the earth to look for exotic things, you’ve got them right here,” he noted.

What nobody was calling the moment was the end of the world, as some people in recent years have interpreted the meaning of the end of the 13th Baktun — despite the insistence of archeologists and the Maya themselves it meant no such thing.

“We’ll still have to pay taxes next year,” said Gabriel Romero, a Los Angeles-based spiritualist who uses crystal skulls in his ceremonies.

Similar ceremonies greeted the dawn in neighboring Guatemala, where Mayan spiritual leaders burned offerings and families danced to celebrate the new era. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla attended an official ceremony in the department of Peten, along with thousands of celebrants and artists.

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