My journey to San Pedro was to research the historical, and spiritual connection between North and South American Native peoples. I visited San Pedro in 2012 when uninformed North Americans said the Mayans had predicted the world would end. The Maya never made any such claim. It was, however, an auspicious time in Mayan history when they celebrated the advent of Job Ajaw, the start of a period when harmony, understanding, peace, and wisdom could reign, according to Carlos Barrios, a member of the Mayan Elders Council. Barrios describes in his book The Book of Destiny that "Somewhere along the way, Western society began to assume that human beings have the right to dominate plants, animals, even each other. The result of this materialist outlook is an economical, ecological, social, and moral crisis that has caused the downfall of other cultures."
This coincides with prophecies of North American Native cultures who have predicted the same. I was honored to have participated in numerous Mayan ceremonies in celebration of this moment in time and praying for world peace.
Within a year following my visit to San Pedro, I had the honor to spend some time on the Hopi reservation, third mesa Hotvela-Paaqavi. I was invited to witness a special ceremony-the rain dance. I noticed the dancers were wearing in their headdress parrot feathers. I recalled visiting Chaco Canyon with a Dine (Navajo) friend, and he explained when archaeologists excavated some of Chaco and had discovered parrot feathers in one of the Kivas. Because the parrot is not indigenous to North America, I asked one of the Hopi elders about the feathers, "they come from our brothers in South America. The land of tropical rain," he said. Indeed there was and still is a historical connection between North and South American indigenous peoples.
The whole experience added greatly to my understanding of the disastrous conflicts of settler colonialism and North American Native peoples, in particularly the Utah Black Hawk War between The Shoshoni-Timpanogos Nation and the Mormon colonists, between the years 1847 and 1873.
San Pedro is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places on earth. It is the heart of Mayan country; the vistas overlooking Lake Atitlan are breathtaking and inspiring. Warm, serene, a place where time seems to have forgotten. San Pedro is also a place of mystery and intrigue, for it is here that the ancient Mayan peoples have lived for thousands of years. Maya people say Lake Atitlan is protected by "three grandmothers", and this was only the beginning. Spend time there, and you can't help but feel the incredible energy that permeates every crevice, every cave, each one of the three majestic volcanoes surrounding the lake. The beautiful Maya people, soon you are aware that there is something intense and mysterious about this place. The name "Maya" means a person who is connected to the Kosmos. Here, everything follows in a particular order. Here, you may ask the question, which came first, Kosmic intelligence or human intelligence?
Lake Atitlan, it is said, has no outlets. Over time it rises and falls. Along the shores, you see buildings underwater. In other places, you see where the shoreline has been in times past. Somewhere beneath the waters, the Maya say there lies an ancient village. It is a volcanic cauldron, and I was told the depth is thousands of feet deep in some places. Lake Atitlan has its own measurable energy vortex. It is a sacred place to the Maya. It has always been.
There are Seven Mayan villages are on the shores of the lake and are, Panajachel, San Pedro, San Marcos, Santiago, Santa Cruz, and Jaibalito, and 20 different Mayan languages are spoken here Spanish is the universal language. In contrast, not so many speak any English at all.
This is just one of some 26 Mayan calendars, a curious looking graphic, one that charts the specific energy fields that shows us how these energies govern not only or lives but all things about us, in fact this calendar charts the energy fields of what the Mayan call the Kosmos. I spent many enjoyable days with Scholar Don Francisco as he took me through the intricacies of this calendar that interprets our nahaul What is a nehaul? This is my nehaul:
According to Mayan charts, my nawhal is Toj, which is my symbol, the symbol of fire. There are 20 nawhals, and your nawhal is determined by the date you were born on. But the rest of what your nawhal represents is not at all like the popular astrology charts we are all familiar with. The above calendar goes far beyond anyone's imagination of what it's about. The point is this is just one part of a very deep and complex belief system that has guided the ancient Mayans throughout time. It is through these intriguing calendars that the Mayan Priests connect with the Kosmic energy of the universe.
Those who come here to find glitz and glamour are disappointed. San Pedro knows where you are. Let it find you sitting on a sun-drenched rock along the shore of the lake. Stay until the sacred waters cleanses away all your sins of the past, pay no attention to the black vultures circling above you. Only your pretense is dying. You will walk away having a new perspective on what truly matters in your life.
It's the energy of the place, the smiling faces you meet along cobblestone paths, the old women selling fresh-baked banana bread and cinnamon rolls, and the children who are laughing on their way to school. The papaya, avocado, and mango trees along the way are heavy with fruit. The aroma of the coffee, oh yes, coffee, is the best anywhere because it is grown here along the lake - on the steep mountain slopes.
I became friends with a coffee grower in San Pedro, and I asked him if he would let me pick my own coffee to take home to my friends in the States. We spent most of the day picking the most red and ripe cherries, they're called, then my friend Thorsten fermented and roasted them, now that's some damn good coffee let me tell you!
Sacred ceremonies were a huge part of my experience in San Pedro. There were times when the air was beautifully scented with spices being burned in the ceremonial fires around the Lake. I joked around with the Myans saying I came here to witness the Mayan apocalypse, the end of the world. And while they have a proven track record of their prophecies coming true, this was never one of them. In other words, they never said the world was coming to an end. What I heard in these powerful ceremonies were prayers for world peace. What I learned from their teachings, a nearly identical belief of the North American indigenous peoples, was that the heart knows not the color of the skin. The Mayans welcome people from all walks of life in the spirit of equality and teach their children to honor Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect.
Maybe' School in San Pedro was where I spent a lot of time. Here in this pleasant atmosphere I learned some Spanish from excellent teachers, but more interesting for me was learning about the Mayan culture from Don Francisco, a Mayan scholar, author, teacher, and spiritual leader.
The word "Don" is a title not a name. It signifies status in the community. Don Francisco is an extraordinary man who has dedicated his life to the betterment of his people through education. Over the years he has gained the respect and admiration of his Mayan community, working tirelessly everyday Don Francisco has inspired his sons to get their university degrees in medicine, architecture, and in the legal profession.
By our standards in the US, San Pedro is a impoverished village, having survived genocide of the 1990's, government corruption, and religious domination, still these good hearted people find the courage to rise above the challenges to remain Mayan.
I am deeply grateful to the Mayan people for helping me to have a better understanding of their culture and sacred life-ways.
See Phillip B Gottfredson's Biography