Party with the Maya
End of the Mayan Calendar Celebrations 12/21/12
The End of the Mayan Calendar Celebration, which took place on the 20th & 21st of December, 2012. The events at the Maya First site, were a great success. A brief service was held, along with a dinner for our guests at the new Maya First Cultural Center and the ritual burning in effigy of Diego de Landa, the man responsible for the destruction of so many Mayan books and historical records, concluded the evenings festivities on the 20th. On the 21st, with the end of the 13th B’ak’tun at sunrise and the beginning of the 14th B’ak’tun at sunset, the guests who attended the ceremonies, were treated to a dinner and a cultural presentation following the ceremony. Many were very moved during the shaman’s ceremony and following Palbona (blessing) prayer where the participants make an offering of Copal (traditional Sacred Tree Resin Incense). They then carry the ceramic bowl that held their offering to the top of the tower where they release it, to shatter on the stones below. This is the Mayan religious practice of Basau or “ritualistic killing” of pottery that was done thousands of years ago by the ancient Maya. On the way back our guests took some time to tour the aforementioned attractions on their way down to the Cultural Center. At the dinner, our guests were treated to traditional Mayan cuisine followed by Marimba music and traditional Mayan folklore dances presented by the local children of Maya First workers at the Cultural Center. Everyone had a great time!
Cultural Preservation and Tourism
Maya First is invested in conducting Heritage Cultural Tourism as well as Eco-Tourism and encouraging the local Mayans to produce and sell their own wares. We support the local Shamans and healers in the showcasing of their traditions, ceremonies, and the preservation of “Bush Medicines”. Maya First seeks to preserve the ancient cultural dances, traditions and ceremonies for the benefit of the modern-day Maya culture, in an ecumenical setting. Maya First wants to increase tourism in the Cayo District of Belize. To this end we are working with the local Mayan community to develop tourist attractions; the construction of an observation tower, a Cultural Center facility, a “Mayan Village”, setting up Ecotours, Heritage Cultural Tours, and a Gift Shop where local artists can sell their products. We want to help the local Mayans become self-sustaining, to start their own businesses and to expand the amount of tourist dollars coming into their community which will create better sustainable employment opportunities for people of the Cayo district. Maya First is developing an Ecotour on its 50 acres of virgin rainforest. Ecotourism is a term used to describe visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, and often as a small scale alternative to commercial tourism, educating the traveler and providing funds for ecological conservation. We hope to add several more sites to our Eco-tours soon. This type of tourism directly benefits the economic development of the Mayan community. We are actively engaged in Heritage Cultural Tourism which provides opportunity for tourism-related economic development and educational experience, gained from heritage cultural tourism can be partnered with other tourist attractions. It can be defined as “traveling to places and activities that authentically represent stories of people both past and present”. It includes events both cultural or of natural origin.
Children’s Opportunity Tower
Construction is complete on the Children’s Opportunity Tower, a 100’ observation platform, sitting atop a 1,000’ mountain. Each of the 150 steps up to the top are decorated with mosaic designs made by the local school children. The tourists ride up in vintage British Land Rovers to the tower base, up an extraordinarily steep jungle pathway. The ride itself is thrilling enough, but then you climb the 150 steps to the top of the tower where you are greeted by sweeping vistas of mountains, jungle and small towns, looking like some giant’s playground.
There may be no other place on earth where you can see so much foliage while standing on one spot. It is truly breathtaking and if you are into physical fitness, or simply adventurous, you can walk up to the summit. There are some 900 wooden steps set into the mountain. Most tourists ride up in the Rovers, and then walk down, the walk down is much easier than the walk up. On the way down from the mountain, one may tour the new Herbal Botanical Gardens and learn about traditional healing plants. A few steps further down and you come to the Gibnut or “Royal Rat” enclosure where our guests learn the colorful story of how the “Royal Rat” got its name.
Maya First Cultural Center
Maya First has recently helped complete the construction of the new Maya First Cultural Center at Sak Tunich. The Center features traditional native Mayan dances and presentations.
The Shamanic healers and Bush Doctors see every aspect of life as having a spiritual component. Our location in Belize is a beautiful village ringed by mountains and lush vegetation. There seems to be a very powerful energy there. Many of our staff have had some extraordinary experiences, some of whom are not necessarily comfortable talking about it, but with each new experience, it only encourages us to attempt these extremely difficult endeavors. In this idyllic, Mayan community of San Antonio, Cayo District, Belize, on a 100-acre preserve
called “Sak Tunich”, Mr. Jose Magana has been creating the only modern-day Mayan Temple under construction in the world, for the past 22 years. “Western people are living out of balance”, Jose said, “I have dreamed my whole life of becoming a Shaman and that one day, someone would come to work with me”, Mr. Magana says, “I believe that day has come at last. We have been preparing every day for this special moment where we, the Mayans invite you who are out of balance and would like to be well, to be part of a new beginning, to release the bad energy and write your name on one of the Mayan calendars that will be dedicated to the creator of the universe to whom we will ask for our protection for this new beginning as he has done for thousands of years”.
“We are optimistic about this new B’ak’tun. It is a beginning for our Maya First organization. You see, we have a strong sense of what is happening in the world because people everywhere are living out of balance with nature. Here we understand what most western-culture people do not understand. Since I was a kid I always dreamed of my ancestors asking me to start a new Maya site that will be known to the world, which should be called Sak Tunich, followed by two towers, one will be a modern tower and the other should be a temple of prayer and a place of promise. The last highest Mayan temple made by the Mayas of this generation. My ancestors have been with me my whole life, showing me things and people before they come to be part of my life and to work with me and my people. Like the Maya First organization, my ancestors have asked me to keep working and that something special is coming into my hands, something which people are looking for. The spirits of my Mayan ancestors will guide us through bad times, as they have guided and protected us for thousands of years. I feel something extraordinary is happening here".
The here Jose is referring to is Sak Tunich, just outside of San Antonio proper and not far from old Mayan sites, such as Xuan Tunich, Caracol and Tikal.
“Yes, Yes”, Mr. Magana continues, “many come to the old sites, to see what once was, but the old sites are not where the living Mayans are, and where we, the living descendants are! Why go to the ancient temples that my ancestors abandoned, where negative influences were? It might be nice to visit and see what once was, but you should look for the living Mayas because my ancestors will be with us in our daily lives”.
“Their spirits are here with us, not at the old places, but where we are now. If people want to be where something is happening, it is here with us, the living Mayans. You see, you see, our story is here with us! We modern-day Mayans want to be acknowledged and recognized, not just for what our ancestors did, but for what we can do and who we are. That is why we are Maya First!”
How You Can Help
“We need volunteers on the ground; we need guidance, teachers and people with expertise. Many here do not have much in the way of marketable skills. We need help teaching skills to our Mayan friends here so that they can obtain sustainable employment.
From the May First Organization
Maya First central office is in Appleton, Wisconsin. Our founders have been visiting Central America for more than 20 years. Having witnessed the conditions that the native Maya children in Guatemala and Belize endure on a daily basis, they have been moved to help as much as they can. But we can not do it alone. We need all the help we can generate. These are good people and what the may lack in education and material goods, they more than make up for in spiritual strength, character and integrity. We have been working in Belize for four years, and we hope someday expand our efforts throughout Central America. We need your help!