Mayan Festival Celebrates a Growing Culture

Chef Sonia Escalante teaches a class on how to cook a Mayan entree at the Mayan Festival at City College on Friday. Photo courtesy of Mayan Festival.

Chef Sonia Escalante teaches a class on how to cook a Mayan entree at the Mayan Festival at City College on Friday. Photo courtesy of Mayan Festival.

If you wanted to ask a Mayan whether or not the world will end on Dec. 21 — as the Mayan apocalypse myth has it — you would have to no look further than one of a growing number of Mayan restaurants in the Mission.

San Francisco’s Mayan population, a diverse group of people from the Yucatan Peninsula with their own culture and language, has grown in the last decade to somewhere between 15,000 to 20,000, said Carlos Kauil, the president of Maya B, a nonprofit organization that provides services to the city’s Mayan community.

Aware of the growing population, a media group from Yucatan, Mexico, partnered with City College and local businesses to bring together the first Mayan Festival.

Dozens gathered on Saturday for the festival’s second day at City College’s Mission campus on Valencia Street, where merchants sold traditional Central American garments and panelists discussed everything from immigration law to the science of the Mayan apocalypse.

The idea was to draw the Mayan population with a party and provide information about issues that affect them, such as immigration laws and tenants rights, said event organizer Hospicio Yballe III.

Candy Madrigal, a professor of social work at San Francisco State University, is working with her students to survey the Mayan population and their needs. Few people filled out the survey over the past two days, but it won’t discourage her from doing research, she said.

While the festival is not looking to capitalize on the apocalypse myth, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a topic of discussion. The premise at the heart of the so-called Mayan apocalypse is that the ancient civilization, which developed astronomical and calendrical systems, considered Dec. 21, 2012, an “end date.”

UC Berkeley’s Space and Sciences Director Bryan J. Mendez presented his findings at the festival:

Modern Maya people don’t use the Long Count calendar. The calendars they do use (Tzolk’in & Haab) do not end in 2012, nor do they ever end, they cycle.

There is no evidence that the ancient Maya considered 13.0.0.0.0 (Dec. 21, 2012) an end date. The little evidence we have indicates that they would have probably continued counting: Dec 22, 2012 would be 13.0.0.0.1.

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One Comment

  1. We make comedy videos and we make them well. Here’s our ASK A MAYAN, poking fun at misinterpretations of the Calendar. Hope it makes you laugh til the end of time… or at least a week from Friday :)
    Link to video:

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