The Maya World Braces For 2012 Apocalypse, Tourism Boom
Mexican government officials are predicting a surge of visitors to the five southern states that comprise the country's Maya region. In Belize, which bills itself as "heartland of the Maya," airlines have committed tens of thousands of extra seats to accommodate projected interest from foreign visitors. In Guatemala, the country with the most living Maya, officials predict a 10 percent across-the-board increase in tourism.
The end of the world, it turns out, is marked by an economic boom.
"2012 will be a momentous occasion, not only for Belize's large Maya population, but for all Belizeans," said Yanick Dalhouse, the Belize Tourism Board's Director of Marketing. "Given the amount of interest we're seeing from around the world, it's generating global excitement as well."
Dalhouse is referring to the year 2012's significance as the end of the Maya Long Count calendar, a 5,125-year period of time which ends exactly on Gregorian calendar date December 21, 2012, the winter solstice. The date was inscribed in stone 1300 years ago near modern-day Tabasco, Mexico and its actual significance is debated among academics and theorists. There are hundreds of books on the subject and probably hundreds of theories, but the implication for Guatemala, southern Mexico, and Belize is clear and immediate: more visitors.
This region -- along with parts of Honduras and El Salvador -- make up the Mundo Maya, a diverse tropical region which includes the flat lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula and the verdant high country of Guatemala. A vast kingdom of city-states once dominated this region, but by 900 A.D. the Maya had abandoned their grand urban centers to Mother Nature, who hid them for half a millenium. Today, some ten million Maya descendants still live in the region and speak 30 indigenous Mayan languages.