03 January 2013

The Mayan date of has arrived and Piri' Miri Miri' prefers simply to ask its titular question from a tribe further North: "What did you dream?" For a lad of my European lineage to get too annoyed by the truly ignorant statements, jokes (this blog believes in jokes), and eschatological projections would be to lack perspective about people who have faced, and endured, much worse, even when the ignorance is coming from multi-million dollar educational endowments like UPenn Anthropology and the Poetry Foundation.

Dennis Tedlock, a poet who co-edited the journal Alcheringa with Jerome Rothenberg, gathers recent scholarship countering the traditional claims that Classsic Mayan culture died out before the arrival of the Spaniards. As with Europe, written narrative was moving from carvings to paper texts, and in the 16thC "Cortés and his men saw many books when they landed on Cozumel" as monumental cities like Copán had long been displaced "by a developing sea trade network," perhaps, I think, susceptible to siege warfare and corruption. Thirty years after Cortés came Diego de Landa, who embarked on a cultural cleansing that saw whatever written codices he could find burned and the destruction of as much Mayan art as possible. Several codices and texts survived by chance, including the Popol Vuh which K'iche' (Quiche) Mayan elders showed to Friar Francisco Ximenez in the early 18thC, who translated it into Spanish.

Among the Quiche peoples, numbering over a million mostly in Guatemala to the West of the capitol, some still use a Mayan calendar, and none have been preparing for an apocalypse. In Momostenango lives Rigoberto Itzep Chanchavac, who as Priest and Daykeeper advises his community when to plant, etc. This interview is from 2009:

"Mankind may change for the better. That will depend on us and how we act and what we do, and I want to communicate that to the world. We have to find our human roots, obeying and being humble, with a fear of the law of life: the earth, wind, fire, and Mother Earth. How can we work on this? We have to stop the bombs, the experiments, the launches into space because that's an assault on the energies of outer space. That's what men have done in their pride. We can get to a more balanced state. We are like children at home breaking things, and the house is Mother Earth.

"We can do this penitence, meditation, and other spiritual work, we can make a chain everywhere in the world. The people with balance with themselves and nature may survive. Mankind has to make a journey to its original roots to make this change.

"We all have the capacity to understand what's happening based on our experience. To understand is within our reach. This is your homework. We are all one family of mankind."

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, Subcomandante Marcos, organizing a thousands strong mostly Mayan pre-dawn silent march on Dec. 21 in five cities, reassures us that "In these past years we've strengthened ourselves and we have significantly improved our living conditions.. We are the same from 500 years ago, from 44 years ago, from 30 years ago, from 20 years ago, from just a few days ago.. the ones who live, struggle, and die in the last corner of the fatherland, those who don't give up, those who don't sell out, those who don't give in.. we send you a hug."

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