OP-ED: Guatemala: The Marketing and Censoring of Maya Spirituality on 21 December - the sacred day of Baktun

By Rebecca Sommer

As you probably know, 21 December is the sacred day of Baktun for the Maya.

 

It turns out, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, and members of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) have accepted to come to Guatemala on 21 December, at the invitation of Alvaro Pop, the Guatemalan expert at EMRIP.

 

The agenda of the UN expert group dealing with questions regarding the human rights of indigenous peoples is not very clear, but there are rumors that they may be going to the ancient Maya city of Tik'al, in which case they would be participating in "celebrations" being organized by the Guatemala Government.

 

But here is the Problem: Baktun celebrations on the sacred day of the Maya people are going to be an orchestrated, controlled "show" by the Government of Guatemala -- to please tourists and handpicked VIP guests.

 

Tik'al, like all other remaining ancient Maya sites are ceremonial grounds of the Maya!

 

Access to their sites, and the free expression and the unhindered exercise of their important rituals according to the teachings of their ancestors are essential to the Maya.

 

Because of governmentally imposed "celebrations", access to this and other ceremonial grounds will be restricted on such an important day to Maya spiritual leaders and their followers (analogous to restricting St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican to the Pope, priests and Christians on Christmas, to hold non-christian "celebrations").

 

When does this ever end, that indigenous peoples are marginalized, their ceremonies are marketed and controlled by others, and their freedom of expression and religion is hindered?

 

One should add perhaps, as a bit of background, that the current President is a former military that participated in the horrendous civil war in Guatemala, which resulted in the genocide committed against indigenous peoples, at that time, he trained the most brutal battalion of Army intelligence, and during his presidency there have been grave human rights abuses against indigenous peoples, including the death of eight indigenous protesters a few months ago, so to have him organize Baktun celebrations is doubly insulting to the Maya peoples.

 

"A recent ruling by the national Third Chamber of the Court of Appeal, the indigenous community Kaqchikel Maya community of Chuarrancho regained the title of their ancestral lands, and a formal recognition of their indigenous authorities" said Bartolomé Chocoj, the legal representative of COMKADES, the NGO that presented the case with the indigenous community of Chuarrancho.

 

But the scared sites of the Maya people, the countries main tourist attraction, continue to be held in a firm grip by governmental authorities.

 

Well-respected Mayan Spiritual Leaders want the world to know and ask the international press to denounce the implicit racism in their celebrations.

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