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Mayan Priests Denied Access to Ceremonial Places in Guatemala

Categories: Guatemala, Citizen Media, Indigenous, Religion

Guatemala, the heart of Mayan culture, has started their festivities for the 13 Baktun – the last cycle of the Mayan calendar, due to end on Friday, December 21, 2012. But sadly the celebrations were dominated by staged government shows which were neither led nor shared by indigenous communities or spiritual leaders.

On stage, non-indigenous peoples were wearing indigenous clothes [1] in a folklore show while non-indigenous attendees from the Guatemalan elites were in the most important ceremonial Mayan center, Tikal, [2] waiting for the new era to arrive. Indigenous peoples were left outside, were they were demonstrating, playing the traditional instrument marimba [3].

Tikal Gran Jaguar Temple by Graeme (under a Creative Commons Attribution License)

The Guatemalan Federations of Mayan Radios [4] [es] reported early in the morning of December 20 that authorities from the Mam – Mayan council were not allowed to enter the central plaza of the National Park Tikal, one of the places for 13 Baktun celebrations. Authorities from the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism denied them access, arguing that the area of ceremonies was cut off for the stage show.

Men and women coming from each corner of the country arrived early to start their traditional ceremonies but were left out until 11:45 pm when the religious authorities were allowed to practice their ancestral ceremonies. Indigenous attendees were in minority as they were neither invited nor allowed inside the main area. The audio can be downloaded here [5] [es].

This is not the first exclusion Mayan people have suffered. Concerns were expressed earlier by the Western Peoples Council [6]:

Oxlajuj B'ak'tun is the time to strengthen ancestral wisdom and the practice and never-ending search for balance; it's a moment in which we must transcend, raise the consciousness of human beings and recognize ourselves as such in order to reach a collective understanding. This means we must ensure that human beings be “truly human in balance with the cosmos and Mother Earth”, through interweaving and respect between cultures and the valuing of identity in every community. Lacking this, the link between the individual and their own reality is already impossible.

It is offensive for the Maya people to see the economic power and government institutions promote the FOLKLORIZATION of Oxlajuj B'ak'tun, commodifying this important event, creating a political image out of tourist promotion and the presentation of spectacles, in a way that does not appropriately interpret the Maya cosmovision.

It is shameful on the part of the Guatemalan government to make the international community believe it is promoting the Maya culture, when it continues to develop an aggressive policy of appropriation of our natural resources. This manifests itself in hundreds of concessions and imposed mining projects, hydroelectric dams, oil extraction, monoculture crops for transnational companies, all in the name of false development as a method of domination and racism in Guatemala.

Racism is rampant in Guatemala State – institutionally, interpersonally, and structurally.  And it adopts new forms, such as the exclusion reflected in the new Mayan era celebrations. Let's hope the Mayan priests will be allowed in and celebrate according to their traditions and beliefs in the following days, as the festivities end on December 30 and that their voices and demands are finally heard by the international community.