Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chicanonautica: No Mayan Apocalypse, Just a New Baktún

This is going up on December 20, 2012, so Happy New Baktún Eve! Yeah, I know a lot of folks are expecting asteroids, comets, polar shifts, flying saucers, zombies and other madness, but not me. I’ve been through this End of the World thing a few times, and I also know something about the Maya, so I’ve got a few things to say.

Back in the Nineties, I was desperadoing it on an awful temporary job. One of my co-workers had a kidney infection, the other had the Grim Reaper tattooed on each of his skeletal arms. Mr. Kidney Infection went on and on about how he was at an all-day lecture by a “Navajo shaman” who said the world was coming to an end in a couple of months, stating astronomical fantasies out of 20th century pseudoscience rather than Diné cosmology. Mr. Grim Reaper disagreed: “The Bible says the world’s gonna end in the year 2000.” I did my best to stay out of it.
Then there was the whole Y2K thing. Doesn’t anybody remember that? I wonder what happened to all those generators and gas masks people were stocking up on?

And, of course, there’s already a backlash. “If the Mayans say they could predict the end of the world, how come they didn’t see their own demise? Yuk! Yuk! Yuk!” By the way, it’s Maya, not “Mayans.” Maya are the people. Their stuff is Mayan. Talking about “Mayans” just shows that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

The culture of the Maya fell due to drought, small pox, and European invaders, but they did not die off. There are around seven million of them living in southern Mexico and Central America.

I’ve been to Mayalandia. Once you get down to the tropics, deserts give way to jungles, and the people are small and brown with faces out of Mayan art. They often speak the local Mayan dialect instead of Spanish. The names of towns and streets are heavily Mayan.

Also, there are Maya in the United States these days. People who think they are smarter than the “Mayans,” have their heads too far up their butts to recognize the Mayas cleaning toilets and mowing lawns in their towns. 

What we have here is a case of classic snake oil in postmodern New Age packaging. You didn’t hear about it until the Seventies and Eighties. Before that, the fact that the Mayan calendar ended at Baktún 13 wasn’t considered a big deal. 13 is considered a lucky number, so why not end it there? The alternative would be to keep computing the calendar forever. But the snake oil salesmen got ahold of it, and folks just seem to love hearing that the world is coming to an end.

You don’t have be factual. You don’t have to be accurate. The popular image of the “Mayan calendar” we’re seeing all over the interwebs is really the Aztec Sunstone.

So get over it. It’s just a new baktún. 144,000 days. About 394 years. Plenty of time.

Why aren’t we celebrating beginning of Baktún 14, or the restarting of the Long Count cycle, the Sixth Sun? What’s the matter? Don’t you want a future? Happy New Baktún, cabrónes! 

Ernest Hogan is the Chicano author of the pre-Columbian-themed, underground science fiction cult novels Cortez on Jupiter and Smoking Mirror Blues. Another, High Aztech, will become available in Baktún 14.

1 comment:

msedano said...

same to you and yours. at midnight on,
let's sing a chorus of "Old Lang Zaine," whoever he was.