For Mexico, end of Mayan calendar a promotional opportunity
By Gay Nagle Myers
Doomsday theorists might want
to move up their holiday plans for
The rest of us can relax.
Some hype holds that the end
of the world could coincide with
the winter solstice on Dec. 21,
the end of the 5,125-year Mayan
calendar that began in 3114 B.C.,
also called the Long Count calendar.
The Mayan calendar is based on
a 20-day cycle in 394-year increments known as a baktun.
Dec. 21, 2012, marks the end of
13 baktun cycles and the conclusion of a key cycle of time, but it’s
not the end of the world.
It’s more like flipping your
kitchen calendar from one
month to the next, although in
this case the “pages” are heavy
stone carvings inscribed with
intricate symbols indecipherable
to most everyone except scholars, astrologers and the Mayan
In fact, Mayas who know what is going
on are pretty excited about the “new beginning” and the “transition,” as they call
For the Mexican Tourism Board as well
as a number of tour operators and hoteliers,
the Mayan event is a broad opportunity to
promote Mexico’s culture, traditions and
archaeological sites through hundreds of
Mayan-theme events, festivals and packages
designed to lure tourists to the region.
The Riviera Maya, for example, plans to
re-enact a popular Mayan ball game called
pitz as well as re-create the Sacred Mayan
Journey, a pilgrimage by canoe from Pole
Port (now Xcaret, an eco-park in the Rivera
Maya region) to Cozumel and back again
to Xamanha (Playa del Carmen) to pay
homage to the goddess Ixchel.
An equinox cele- bration at Chichen Itza. More such celebrations are set for throughout he year.
Tourism officials expecting ‘record-breaking year’
More than 52 million tourists will visit
Mexico this year, according to forecasts
from the country’s Ministry of Tourism.
That number includes domestic travelers within Mexico as well as international
Mexico Tourism Board officials hope to
break the benchmark figure of 22. 5 million international visitors set in 2008.
Figures for 2010 came close, totaling 22. 4
million. Final figures for 2011 are not yet
Predictions for 2012 followed a solid
holiday season and a strong start to the
winter season, particularly in the resort
Air arrivals shot up 13% in December
over December 2010, continuing a surge
that had begun in the fall, according to
Alfonso Sumano, director of the Mexico
Tourism Board in the U.S.
The country received nearly 1. 1 million
international visitors in December, with
U.S. visitors up 10.6% over the same
month in 2011.
The museum circuit
Visitors to the region will get their fill of
museums as well as ancient ruins and carvings.
The Archaeological Museum in Cancun,
which opens later this year, will house Mayan carvings, paintings, jewelry and pottery.
Also on the museum circuit will be the
new Museo del Mundo Maya, which is set
to debut this fall in Merida, capital of the
Another project is the Palacio de la Civi-lizacion Maya in Yaxcaba, a few miles from
“Many in Mexico have been planning for
this year for 10 years,” Sumano said.
Most visitors will take in a full day at
Chichen Itza, the most well-known and revered of the Maya sites, especially the signature El Castillo great pyramid.
Chichen Itza will host many events this
year, including equinox and solstice celebrations in March, June and September,
capped by the big one in December.
Paul McCartney will stage a concert
on Chichen Itza’s sacred grounds late this
spring as part of the celebrations, according
Despite the number of events leading up
to and surrounding Dec. 21, the Mundo
Maya celebrations, while they promise to
be joyful and colorful, are authentic and
“Visitors should seek out the opportunity to meet actual Maya, see their customs,
traditions, form of life and learn about
their mysticism and philosophy,” Sumano