Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mexico Mayan region launches apocalypse countdown

Seize the day.

Only 52 weeks and a day are left before Dec. 21, 2012, when some believe the Maya predicted the end of the world.

Unlike enthusiasts of other doomsday theories who suggest putting together survival kits, southeastern Mexico, the heart of Maya territory, plans a yearlong celebration.

Mexico's tourism agency expects to draw 52 million visitors by next year only to the regions of Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Campeche. All of Mexico usually lures about 22 million foreigners in a year.

It's selling the date, the Winter Solstice in the coming year, as a time of renewal. Many archeologists argue that the 2012 reference on a 1,300-year-old stone tablet only marks the end of a cycle in the Mayan calendar.

"The world will not end. It is an era," said Yeanet Zaldo, a tourism spokeswoman for the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo, home to Cancun. "For us, it is a message of hope."

Cities and towns in the Mayan region on Wednesday will start the yearlong countdown. In Chiapas the town of Tapachula on the Guatemalan border will start a countdown on an 8-foot digital clock in the main park exactly a year before the mysterious date.

In the nearby archaeological site of Izapa, Maya priests will burn incense, chant and offer prayers. Read More