Maya end of the world a Western invention: Visiting Central American scholar

Renowned Central American literary expert and scholar Professor Arturo Arias will dispel myths surrounding the Maya Calendar, and address wider issues for indigenous cultures in a public lecture Tuesday 12th March.

On 21st December 2012, Maya communities in the Americas celebrated the end of the Fourth Era and welcomed the Oxlajuj B’aqtun, the Fifth Maya Era. However across the planet, from the US to Russia, people panicked at the idea that the world would end “as predicted by Maya astronomers”.

“This was a Western invention; this change does not predict the end of time but promotes continuity at a time of crisis,” says Professor Arias.

In his lecture, Professor Arias will explain the calendar’s workings, the celebrations last December, and how indigenous peoples throughout the Americas see this momentous event as a starting point to reconfigure an ethical beginning for their people. He will also discuss how indigenous groups are coming together to face common issues; to advance decolonial processes, to strengthen indigenous cultures, and to protect the earth and earths’ resources in significant ways.

“As a creative writer and highly admired intellectual, Professor Arias brings us a lifetime of storytelling from many different communities; from the Maya people in Guatemala to the exile groups in France and the US, from researchers to journalists, all with their own versions of the past. His visit promises to attract a diverse audience,” says Kathryn Lehman, Senior Lecturer, New Zealand Centre for Latin American Studies.

The University of Auckland Hood Fellow, Professor Arias is hosted by The University of Auckland’s New Zealand Centre for Latin American Studies and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, New Zealand’s Indigenous Centre of Research Excellence.

Arturo Arias is a mestizo creative writer and specialist in critical theory whose contributions to Maya culture are recognised by their claiming him as one of their own. Professor of Latin American Literature, he co-wrote the screenplay for the film El Norte (1984), and edited The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy (2000). Having published six novels in Spanish, with two Casa de las Americas Awards, he was also winner of the Ana Seghers Award for fiction in Germany, and the Miguel Angel Asturias National Award (2008) for Lifetime Achievement in Literature in Guatemala. His most recent book is Taking their Word: Literature and the Signs of Central America (2007).

Public lecture details: “Oxlajuj B’aqtun: Not the End but a New Beginning for Maya, Indigenous Peoples and the Earth”, Professor Arturo Arias
When: 6pm Tuesday 12th March
Where: The University of Auckland, Owen G Glenn Business School, Lecture Theatre B4