Belize’s Maya are not the only members of the population who are awaiting the winter solstice of 2012 – the entire country is gearing up for a year of reflection, renewal and celebration. “Imagine a New Year’s party that comes only once every 52,000 years, and you’ll get an idea of what this means to those of us living in the Maya heartland, “ Dr Jaime Awe, Director of Belize’s Institute of Archaeology said yesterday. Dr Awe, one of Belize’s foremost archaeologists, was speaking at a preliminary launch of a new Belizean website dedicated to the 2012 celebrations planned for this tiny Central American nation. Dr Awe also laughed off suggestions that the Maya feared 2012 would herald in the Apocalypse, as suggested by the popular film 2012 and numerous internet sites. “Hollywood drama has very little to do with the reality of what the Maya Calendar and Long Count calculations are all about. This represents the ending of one cosmological cycle, and the beginning of another. It’s very much the way most people would look at the end of a millennia and the beginning of another, but over a very, very long period of time. It is an event that will mark the completion of a great cycle and a time for reflection, and for considering future direction,” he said.
Seleni Matus, Director of the Belize Tourism Board, agrees. “This region is where the Maya Calendar began and continues to be read. You won’t find too many people worried about 2012 here. In fact, we’re looking forward to a year of celebrating and highlighting Belize’s vibrant Maya culture and history.”
Belize, on Central America’s Caribbean coast, has a large per capita Maya population and a huge number of Maya archaeological sites for a nation only some 70mi by 180mi long. Three Maya dialects are still spoken in Belize, and traditions such as farming methods and cooking have continued largely unchanged for centuries in Maya villages.
Ms Matus said that rather than a doom and gloom scenario, 2012 presents an opportunity to highlight the achievements and rich cultural history of the Maya of Belize. “It’s always been said that you can barely dig a posthole or clear land in Belize without uncovering some Maya artifact. Belize was a huge population and administrative centre during the peak of Maya civilization, and they left behind a rich legacy that we are proud of, and wish to share with the rest of the world,” she said. To this end, Belize will be hosting scientists, academics and an expected influx of visitors throughout 2012, with a range of special tours, cultural activities and Maya themed sporting events planned. One initiative, for instance, involves visitors being issued with commemorative Maya “passports” and collectors’ cards which give entry and are stamped at each of Belize’s Maya temples and archaeology sites. Along with information kits and knowledgeable guides they ensure visitors a well rounded and memorable Maya experience during 2012.
There are also special tour packages on offer, with most resorts enthusiastically participating in the national celebrations. Events such as the annual La Ruta Maya canoe race, one of the longest in the world, will emphasize Maya culture as it passes through the country. “Everybody in Belize is getting behind our Maya celebrations and we’re really looking forward to a very special year. With so much to see and do, we’re confident that our visitors will go away with a better understanding of Maya culture while having a great time learning about and experiencing life in the heartland of the Maya,” Ms Matus said. Dr Awe agreed, “It’s been a long time coming, but 2012 is certainly going to be something very special in Belize. We’re all looking forward to an incredible year.”
As one of the last unspoiled places on earth, Belize offers travelers the richly rewarding authenticity they seek in a Caribbean getaway. With direct flights from the U.S. and Canada, this tropical paradise is nestled between Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south. For generations, the English-speaking people of Belize have demonstrated a commitment to preserving the country’s unique charms. Belize offers a land rich in natural beauty and steep in the history and culture of its Maya past. Renowned for having the second largest barrier reef in the world, Belize’s pristine waters, exotic marine and wildlife, lush unspoiled landscapes and superb diving truly make it Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret.
For more information on how you can be one with Belize, visit www.travelbelize.org