Nowadays about 80% percent of the population in Guatemala has their genetic and cultural origins in ancient Mayan culture; that was not a uniform group but a Society formed by alliances among several groups in Mesoamerica, reaching its highests point in the Classical Period. The biggest mayan city, Tikal, is located in Guatemala, showing the splendor in architecture and science of Mayan culture. Indeed, Guatemalans are proud of such cultural heritage, and ancient Mayan civilization is always used as an example to follow in school here of how a small country can do great things to amaze the world.
That´s why the film Apocalypto, directed by Mel Gibson (who is now visiting Guatemala for a couple of days), found everywhere in the “black market” of DVD´s throughout the city, is controversial. Even the Ministry of Culture has been asked to censor the movie which will arrive to theaters in March. Here some abstracts of what Guatemalan bloggers are saying about it:
Journalist and Photographer Leon Aguilera writing at KLAVAZA [ES] points out that even while the director did a great job with photography, the mixture of colors, and, in the end, made an entertaining movie, it is full of unforgivable historical mistakes, such as the language used in the film (never spoken by post classical Mayas), and it shows 100% pure fiction. It is not a historical movie at all. He does, however, affirm that the film can be useful as an example to Mr. President Bush, and quoting Will Durant, continues that: “civilizations fail when they begin to rot from the inside”. He had found certain parallelism between the Spanish Conquerors actions shown in Apocalypto and methods by the Bush administration in Iraq.
On the other hand, analyst Luis Figueroa at the blog Carpe Diem states that indeed Mayan culture had such scientific and astronomic achievements, but that it has also been proven that they practiced violent methods of war and human sacrifice, and that the film is sustained by history. He argues that it is not rational to claim for censorship, nor that the film is racist nor is it true that Mayas were less violent than, for example, ancient greeks. According to Figueroa, to ask for censorship is to regress to a totalitarian and arbitrary practice.
El Charakotel [ES] agrees with Carpe Diem that censoring the film is not right, however worries that global opinion about Mayas can be manipulated thus validating the argument that during the armed conflict in Guatemala, indigenous people just killed each other because they are violent and savage, rather than being an issue of genocide. His main concern is that films such as the ones directed by Gibson, state that only “Christian Western Values are the valid ones”, invalidating and criticizing Judaism, Mayan practices and others.