Lighting Up the Maya New Year
We were not able to attend this momentous event, but we thought it was important enough to tell you, our readers, about it. And to document it here on the website for posterity. Because this year, for the first time in 500 years, a tradition which had been part of the Maya culture for centuries, was reinstated. This tradition was apparently stopped after the Spanish came to Yucatan and took over the city of T'ho, naming it after a city in their homeland, Merida.
Last year, the Maya New Year was celebrated in the town of Sotuta, but this year, the tradition was brought to the center of culture and returned to its rightful place.
The following is our translation of the press release that we received from the Baktún project, a group that was instrumental in bringing this event back.
Sacred Fire Lit for the New Year by Maya in Mérida
Mayan priests, representatives of different traditions, associations, artisans and Merida society in general, gathered on July 26, 2016 to commemorate this important date in the solar calendar of 365 days, called Ha'ab.
Mayan priests and dignitaries gathered in the city of Merida to light the sacred fire on the occasion of New Year Maya Ha'ab which in 2016 is called Kinich Kakmó in T'Hó, which roughly translate as "the Scarlet fire with solar face in the old Merida".
The celebration was held at the archaeological site of Chen Hó, opposite the main pyramid. More than 800 people accompanied the Maya dignitaries in a tradition that goes back more than 500 years, the practice of which was stopped with the advent of the conquest.
In charge of lighting the sacred fire was the priest j'kiín Can May Tiburcio, who was accompanied by j'men (Maya priests) Asterio Cen Dzul, Bacilio Cua and Antonio Oxte, who performed prayers in their own language. Their prayers invoked 'the grandfather in charge of time', who in this tradition is the one who determines the climate and energy conditions of the new Calendar Ha'ab, a period of 365 days.
According to the director of Project Baktún, who was responsible for coordinating the event, MSc. Eduardo Rivera Coss, the Maya priests approach the power of the sacred fire after a period of fasting and abstinence for 90 days. During this time, they participate in meditation and much reflection, because in their worldview, the ignition and invocation of a 'Grandfather Fire' is a very sacred and solemn moment.
"For the Maya Culture Ha'ab is the renewal of a cycle. In the deep understanding of the Maya people, since ancient times, it is known that our planet is dynamic and revolves around the sun, generating cycles and generating life. Every New Year, the Maya tradition provides this ritual as an opportunity to know that we are part of a world whose life is expressed through nature, a world that human beings have the duty to respect, "said Rivera Coss.
Meanwhile, Master Can Tiburcio thanked the people who attended this celebration. Included in the participants was a representative of the Buddhist tradition and Karuna Yoga, Miriam Cuevas Gongora, as well as a representative of the Muslim community, Imam Azhar. Those who joined did so to express the idea that cultures and religions can coexist and fraternize, wherever there is respect, peace and harmony.
Also attending were representatives from various associations such as Ayelem, which works with young people with Downs Syndrome, the Association for the Deaf in the State of Yucatan (ASEY) and the Comité Organizador de las Familias Prolactancia Materna en Mérida, Yucatán. The participation of the last group reflects the importance recognized by the Maya culture of nursing newborns, an idea not necessarily supported in modern Mexican society.
It is noteworthy that the first fire on this New Year Ha'ab was held for the first time in 2015 in the municipality of Sotuta, also coordinated by Baktún project. This year the event was held in the city of Merida, with facilities and support provided by the town council, through their e-Tourism and Culture Department. Lic. Liliana Bolio Pinelo, assistant director for the Promotion of Culture of the city of Merida, attended on behalf of mayor Mauricio Vila Dosal.
We are so happy to see that Merida and Yucatan are continuing to embrace, celebrate and promote the Maya culture, language and traditions. There was a time in the early 2000's when it seemed as if all these precious things were being lost as the new generations of Maya grew up under the influence of television and modernity. In the last few years, the government and the general population have realized how precious their Maya heritage and traditions are, and are taking huge strides to preserve and teach it. As foreigners who have a love and appreciation for this part of the world, we could not be happier to see this happening.