POSTED: Friday, December 21, 2012 - 10:00am
UPDATED: Friday, December 21, 2012 - 10:04am
NBC News — In Guatemala thursday night, true believers and tourists marked the end of an era in the ancient Mayans' calendar. A ceremony in the ancient city of Tikal, was led by Mayan priests and spiritual guides. The heavily hyped end of the Mayan calendar friday prompted a wave of doomsday speculation around the world, but few in the Mayan heartland believed it. The Mayans measured time in 394 year periods known as Baktuns and the 13th Baktun ended friday. Thirteen is considered a sacred number for the Maya which prompted much of the speculation. But researchers have uncovered evidence that Mayans refereed to dates far, far in the future.
All the speculation about doomsday has prompted a boom in tourism at Mayan sites in Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. But not everyone is using the event to celebrate. Outside this ceremony, indigenous activists tried to draw attention to their plight. Protesters gathered to call for an end to what they say is discrimination against Guatemalans of Mayan ancestry. The U.N. says more than half of Guatemala's indigenous youth do not complete school while child mortality and malnutrition is also higher than among other Guatemalans. Many indigenous Mayans have also been critical of all the doomsday speculation saying the theories have little to do with Mayan culture.