Much has been made of the expected events on Dec. 21, 2012. Whether or not the world comes to an end to fulfill the much-hyped prediction, a University of Houston Fulbright Fellow will have a front row seat as she pursues research on Mayan culture and the world view of participants in the Mayan end date.
“I have an opportunity to observe and document millenarian movements by providing a comparative study of two cultures, Mayan and New Age, during a one-of-a-kind event,” said Carminia Martinez, who is completing a master’s degree in anthropology. She will spend a year on the Yucatan Peninsula conducting ethnographic research among Mayan groups, gathering histories, oral traditions, preparations and expectations about Dec. 21, 2012. “The Mayan calendars conclude cycles of time, so the idea that time is cyclical means aspects of the past will be repeated,” she said. “In ancient Maya the end represents a beginning. New Age beliefs maintain the planet and humanity are approaching a new spiritual era.”
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards scholarships to U.S. graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals, scientists and artists selected through a national, merit-based competition for study and research abroad. Academic fields include the social sciences, humanities and the sciences. Since 1995, there have been 13 UH students awarded with Fulbright scholarships.
“Carminia’s area of study, ‘The Return of the Mayan Ancestors,’ is based on intensive research and extensive knowledge pertaining to Mayan culture, religion and worldview,” said Susan Rasmussen, professor of anthropology in the UH department of comparative cultural studies.
Martinez will document, in interviews and video, a behind-the-scenes look at how the event is celebrated, the leading figures and rituals, and the relationship between the two cultures. In the months after Dec. 21, she’ll interview members of both groups—Mayan and New Age—to see how their perspectives about prophecies and the future have changed. Her research will culminate in a book about her yearlong experience.
The subject matter is more than “pop interest” to her. Her grandmother was Mayan.
“This research is very personal to me, a journey to learn more about my Mayan culture and traditions,” she said. “My grandmother spoke Mayan fluently. She inspired me to learn more about my heritage to be able to link it to present-day Mayan culture. I want to make my family proud.”
Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given approximately 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.
For more information on the Fulbright Program for U.S. Students, visit https://us.fulbrightonline.org/home.html.