Well, it’s only two days – or less, depending on your time zone – to the ending of the 13th Baktun of the current Great Cycle of the Maya Long Count Calendar, at least for those most enthusiastic about the event (many archaeologists and other Maya students say the date actually is more likely to fall on the 23rd). A Great Cycle lasts 5,125 years, so virtually all known human history falls within the present one. Which is a big deal, and a wonderful object for contemplation, though from there to any idea that ‘the world’s going to end’ (never mentioned on any Maya monument) or the more positive ‘there will be a new era of spiritual rebirth’ is a cognitive leap.
The global buzz/murmur/acute stomach rumble about 2012 is special in that it’s overwhelmingly and massively Net-driven. Certainly there are plenty of books about it, but they mainly serve as food for the net-chat. As archaeologist Rafael Cobos of the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán points out to me, the big idea about the Mayan calendar representing some kind of cosmic convergence was first put about in the 1980s by New Age author and psychedelian José Arguelles, conveniently just before the invention of the Internet. Then the Net came, and ‘boom’, the whole thing took off.
Net presence seems to be an irresistible force. Most archaeologists and others actually studying the Maya close up either dismiss the importance hung on 2012 or say ‘it’s not that simple’, but aren’t allowed to ignore it because of the number of times they’re asked about it. The authorities of Yucatán state looked like they were trying to ignore it too, but somebody seems to have said ‘hey, look at all this stuff, they’re talking about us, we’ve got to do something with this’ and have inaugurated a gleaming new Maya museum (qv previous post) and rather late in the day have launched a Festival of Maya Culture. One of the best ideas has come from star Yucatecan chef Roberto Solis, who has inspired his friend René Redzepi of Denmark, the best chef in the world according to the San Pellegrino/Restaurant magazine poll, to come over and lead a team of chefs from all over Mexico in creating a ‘dinner for the end of the world’ on Friday night. As Redzepi told a local audience on Wednesday night, ‘this is your moment, so take it’.
Otherwise, Mérida people look on the whole thing with the right tranquility and a Yucatecan giggle. A taxi driver complains that there’s poco movimiento, the promised numbers of 2012 tourists haven’t materialized. And Mérida’s own mysteries remain the same. It’s still a city of deep, atmospheric shadows and hidden patios, where at night cars along the long, empty streets can be heard blocks and blocks away.