In Part 1 of this series we discussed the claims by the producers of the documentary “Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond,” currently under production, that the Mexican government will supposedly disclose some secrets about the Maya civilization and extraterrestrial contact. The story appeared in late September in the Hollywood entertainment online site The Wrap, which quoted the film’s producer, Raul Julia-Levy, and the Minister of Tourism of Campeche state, Luis Augusto García Rosado. We also commented on how this story might be part of a public relations campaign known as the Mundo Maya (Mayan World) 2012 Program, which was launched by the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, on June 21.
We quoted extensively from the president’s speech, which certainly didn’t mention anything about aliens, but did address the end of the Mayan calendar in December 2012, the scientific and cultural achievements of that Mesoamerican civilization, and the official program to promote tourism and revamp the infrastructure in the Mayan Riviera region. Lots of people are waiting “precisely for this end of an epoch, which has been given many interpretations,” said the president of Mexico. “I believe the world will have its eyes upon the Mayas and we must take advantage of it.”
The film’s director, Juan Carlos Rulfo
One of the key players in the “Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond” documentary is its director, Juan Carlos Rulfo, who was only mentioned in The Wrap articles. He is the son of Juan Rulfo (1917-1986), one of Mexico’s most important writers of the 20th century, whose novel Pedro Páramo is considered a classic in modern Latin American literature. Although better known for his literary work, Rulfo was also an outstanding photographer who documented with his camera the deep roots of Mexican history and life. He also wrote some film scripts, a career which was followed by his son Juan Carlos, who graduated from the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC, Film Training Center) in Mexico City and became an award-winning documentary film director.
Juan Carlos Rulfo began his career in the 1990s with documentaries about life in Jalisco, from where his family came. Rulfo’s 2006 movie In the Pit won the Grand Jury Prize for International Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, and he also won the Ariel and Goya Awards for some of his other films. The Mexican media site Milenio online published on September 14 an extensive interview with Juan Carlos Rulfo, where he discussed the Maya prophecies and 2012.
“I know the government is allowing us to do what is necessary but this cannot be a government film,” said Rulfo, adding that “if it becomes that, I have nothing else to do.” Rulfo stated that, “according to the Mayan prophecies, an era of the world will end and another will begin,” but in this process “humanity will face a catastrophe and this is precisely what the documentary will explore, since it talks of certain secret archives and certain discoveries that the Mexican government has had in its possession for 80 years, which will be revealed in this production. The prophecy is already known by the public, but we don’t know yet what are the secrets kept by the Mexican government. What we are living is a Katun (the end of an era). The Mayas said that before the end of an era, you must cross for a period of about 12 years, where you live in disaster and uncertainty.” According to Rulfo, this 12-year period began with the 9/11 attacks of 2001 and will end with the change of era at the end of 2012. “We will interview old Maya shamans,” Rulfo went on, “Church people and several presidents from different parts of the world that will talk about this.” You can read the full interview with Juan Carlos Rulfo in Spanish here.
Juan Carlos Rulfo mentioned several times the so-called “Mayan prophecies,” although this is sort of a misnomer. The Mayan calendar with its Long Count beginning on 4 Ahaw, 8 Kumk’u (August 11, 3114 BC in the Gregorian calendar) and ending the final baktun (a cycle of 144,000 days) on December 21, 2012, is a mathematical device that all experts agree on, although the interpretation of what it means can certainly differ. But there are no legitimate ancient Mayan prophecies as such. There are plenty of spurious, new age-type prophecies alleged to be of Maya origin, but no ancient document of prophecies like the Biblical Book of Revelation or the Centuries of Nostradamus is known to exist regarding the Mayas. Such a book might have existed, but as we know the Bishop of Yucatan, Diego de Landa, tragically burned all the Maya manuscripts he could get his hands on during the Spanish conquest. The surviving, richly illustrated Maya Codices contain astrological predictions, and many myths and traditions are collected in the Books of Chilam Balam, which are a compilation in Yucatec Maya language done in the 18th century. None of these documents, however, refer to 2012 or provide specific prophecies for our times.
The Tortuguero Monument 6 and Bolon Yokte K’u
The one exception that refers to 2012 is the inscription in monument number 6 in the Mayan site of Tortuguero, which lies to the west of Palenque and is located in the state of Tabasco. President Calderón mentioned this monument is his Mayan World speech. According to the Mayan experts Marc Zender and Stanley Guenter in their article Three Kings of Late Classic Tortuguero, “Monument #6, dating to 668 A.D., is the single longest inscription from the site, and details the major events of B’alam Ajaw’s life. Included in this history is a brief parentage statement for the king.” B’alam Ajaw (AD 612-679), which means “Jaguar Lord” was a king of Tortuguero, conqueror of Comalcalco and a contemporary of the famous King of Palenque, K’inich Janahb Pakal. We reproduce below the key passage, as translated by Sven Gronemeyer from the University of Bonn in Germany and Dr. David Stuart from the University of Texas in Austin, showing the original Maya glyphs, their transliteration to Latin alphabet and the English translation:
As you can see, the passage is extremely obscure for us, but there are some curious remarks about “darkness” and the descent of Bolon Yokte K’u, “of the Nine Support God(s).” Who was this mysterious Bolon Yokte K’u? According to the “Lord Pakal Ahau’s Maya Diaries” website, the Maya God Bolon Yokte K’u “represents the whole solar system with the nine planets orbiting our Sun,” although this is not an interpretation endorsed by archaeologists. For two academic experts, Markus Eberl of Tulane University and Christian Prager of the University of Bonn, “the deity Bolon Yokte K’u is shown here to have had a consistent association with underworld, conflict, and war from the beginning of the Classic period into Colonial times… The identification of Bolon Yokte K’u on the ‘Vase of the Seven Gods’ (K2796) underscores its importance as one of the gods that were present during the creation of the present world.”
John Major Jenkins, the well known popular author on 2012, has this to say about Bolon Yokte K’u:
One thing about Bolon Yokte’s presence in the 2012 text should be emphasized. Apart from symbolizing war, conflict, and the underworld, Bolon Yokte is a god that is often present during Creation events, often referring to the Creation event of 188.8.131.52.0 in 3114 BC, and most notably on the Vase of the Seven Lords. So, what does it mean that a Creation Lord is present on the next 184.108.40.206.0, the one that falls in 2012 AD? Although some scholars have commented that the incomplete text on Tortuguero Monument 6 doesn’t tell us much, they have overlooked the obvious: Bolon Yokte’s mere presence suggests that 2012 was thought of as a Creation, a world renewal that, after all, makes perfect sense in the context of a World Age doctrine that sequences forward in intervals of 13 baktuns. This may seem to go without saying, but in fact my work has been criticized for characterizing 2012 as a “cosmogenesis.” Here the scholars are one step closer to understanding 2012 for what the Maya knew it to a be: a rebirth and the beginning of a new World Age.
The UNAM and 2012
Both the Campeche Tourism Minister García Rosado and the 2012 documentary director Juan Carlos Rulfo hinted at secret codices or artifacts that have been kept hidden by the Mexican government for many years and that will be disclosed in the upcoming film to be released a short time before the end of the Mayan calendar in December 2012. Because of its rich history and heritage, Mexico has a very strong archaeological community, much of it funded by the government, and you would expect that any kind of evidence would have been vetted by at least some of these academic experts. However, all the statements about 2012 so far coming from either the Mexican or the international archaeological community specialized in Mayan studies have been dismissive of both apocalyptic or ET-oriented interpretations about the end of the calendar.
This was made quite clear in an official release issued on January 1, 2011 by experts from the Center for Mayan Studies (Spanish acronym CEM) of the Institute of Philological Investigations (IIFI) with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). “The world will not end on December 22, 2012 nor there will be a catastrophe,” began the statement. “There is neither any prophecy in that regard, as has been claimed in some statements without scientific basis.” The coordinator of CEM, María del Carmen Valverde, explained that, “in their calendar, the Mayas didn’t describe a prophecy but the end of a cycle of 13 baktuns, equivalent to 5,125 years and the beginning of another cycle. This culture had a circular notion of time, which means that history will be repeated at a given moment. For them, they are making a prophecy when they write their annals because of their cyclical concept where events are repeated.”
Tomás Pérez Suárez, another researcher with the CEM, explained the cycle of 13 baktuns—a baktun is a unit of time equivalent to 144,000 days in our calendar—adding that when that cycle ends in December of 2012, “a period ends and another one begins, but there is no glyph that talks of the end of the world or of humanity.” The UNAM experts are in agreement with international Mesoamerican scholars like Anthony Aveni of Colgate University or Dr. John Carlson, director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy at the University of Maryland, according to whom the dreaded December 2012 date is simply a reset in the Maya calendar system.
It remains to be seen what concrete disclosures will be presented in the “Revelations of the Mayans 2012 and Beyond” documentary. That the Mexican government will allow them to film in previously restricted archeological sites or show them historical artifacts that were kept in museum vaults and were not on public display, makes perfect sense. Yet based on what I’ve seen so far, I remain skeptical that the Mexican government would choose to reveal important secrets about the Mayas through a movie instead of using the standard procedures of vetting them through its own archaeological experts at the UNAM and other official academic institutions. It sounds to me that the “revelations” published by The Wrap are part of a PR campaign by the producers of the documentary to drum up expectations for their movie and that some Mexican officials like the Minister of Tourism of Campeche are going along to take advantage of the 2012 cultural hype. Time will tell, I suppose, and we won’t have to wait too long for that.
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