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World has already ended for ethnic Mayans

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 19th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The once mighty Mayan civilization is enjoying global interest as revelers and doomsday prophets wait Friday, December 21 which marks the end of the 5,200-year era as predicted in the elaborate Mayan calendar. What won't be in discussion is how native Mayans today are now marginalized, and live in abject poverty throughout Mexico and Native America. For the framers of the current purported apocalypse, the world has apparently already ended.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Maya civilization at its peak had one of the richest cultures in the Americas. In Guatemala today, however, where nearly half of the population is indigenous, Maya descendants have fell victims to genocide.

"The indigenous population was always seen as cheap labor and this persists to this day," Guatemalan anthropologist Alvaro Pop says. A member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Pop says that "they are seen as a tool and are not the focus of public policies."

The Maya civilization reached its peak between the years 250 and 900 -- but then slipped into decline around 1200.

During Spanish colonization 300 years later, the Mayas were dispossessed of their lands and reduced to poverty and servitude.

There are currently an estimated 20 to 30 million direct descendants of the ancient civilization today living in southern Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Guatemala is where the largest concentration of Mayan descendants resides today. Ethnic Mayas often find themselves on the margins of society here, with limited access to education, health care and other basic services. Their native languages are not officially recognized.

The poverty rate for the indigenous community here is a staggering 80 percent. Mayan descendants accounts for 42 percent of Guatemala's 14.3-million-strong population.

According to the United Nations Development Program, nearly six in 10 indigenous children suffer from chronic malnutrition, and the infant mortality rate has hit an alarming rate of 40 per 1,000 live births.

Guatemala's civil war that pitted the army against leftist guerrillas from 1960 to 1996 took the heaviest toll against the Mayan population.

"There were external reasons which exacerbated the population's poverty and led to a stigmatization of indigenous people," according to Pop.

In addition, more than 600 massacres of indigenous communities were recorded during that period and tens of thousands of Indians sought refuge in southern Mexico from the brutal counter-insurgency by the military, according to a 1999 United Nations report.

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