Mayan priests and special guests celebrated the Fire Ceremony on December 21 in the ancient city of Tikal, Guatemala to welcome the first rays of the sun and the beginning of a new era.
The priests were gathered in a circle located in front of the Temple of the Jaguar in the Main Plaza of the Tikal archaeological Park, located 340 miles north of the capital, Guatemala City, to light a ceremonial fire along with candles and torches to give thanks to the creator and mark the beginning of a new cycle.
According to various sources, the priests asked for unity, peace, an end to discrimination and racism, with the hopes that the new cycle would represent a new dawn for the Indigenous Peoples. The Mayan peoples of Guatemala make up about 40 percent of the 14.3 million citizens of that country and many live in extreme poverty.
Among the guests in the crowd were Guatemalan President Otto Perez and President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica. Due to the presence of these political leaders and other administration figures, security at the Park was heavy.
One of the Mayan officials, Alberto Marroquin, Secretary of the National Council of Ancestral Mayan, Garifuna and Xinca Authorities, noted that ceremonies had begun December 19 to allow the emergence of Oxlajuj Akabal, the new dawn.
According to Felipe Gomez of the National Oxlajuj Ajpop Conference, Mayan leaders had begun to purify at least 20 sacred sites where they celebrated the event in a series of ceremonies and rituals.
One of the other ceremonies took place in Iximché, Chimaltenango, Mayan capital of the late post classic period located in the western highlands of Guatemala. Mayan leaders at Iximché also commented on the meanings of the ceremonies.
"These activities need to serve as indications to the international community that we, the Indigenous Peoples, are still alive and that we are seeking respect for our customs and traditions," said Hernan Guarcax, President of the Ajq’ija´Kaqchikela B´eleje´kat kaji Imox indigenous council.
"We have seen that the sacred fire has asked us to take care of our planet," added Marco Rosa, described as a spiritual guide. "For that reason we ask that pollution not be permitted in our rivers and springs."