If the world is ending Friday, as many earthlings say the ancient Mayans predicted, there were no signs of panic, prophesying or much else out of the ordinary on Thursday on the streets of New York’s most densely Mayan neighborhood, Bath Beach in Brooklyn.
“Everything is normal,” Balbino Antoño Say Garcia reported from behind the counter of Tienda Guatemalteca La Chapincita on Bath Avenue, where the Mayan tongue of K’iche mingles with Spanish and Russian. “No one is talking about the end of the world here, not at all.”
Ronaldo Camacho of neighboring Bensonhurst, a representative of a Guatemalan immigrant-rights group, Migua, said that for Mayans in Guatemala, Friday is a day to celebrate, not mourn, as the winter solstice brings a 394-year cycle in the Mayan calendar known as a b’ak’tun to completion.
“An era is coming to an end, but that isn’t to say it is the end,” Mr. Camacho, 36, said.
According to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar, the current world, in which humans have flourished, began 13 b’ak’tuns, or 5,125 years, ago, following three failed worlds, the last of which also lasted 13 b’ak’tuns. And some doomsayers have equated the end of this fourth world with the end of civilization.
But the consensus among modern Mayanist scholars is that the end of this 13-b’ak’tun period heralds only the beginning of the next.
The doomsday predictions, Mr. Camacho said, are “a disrespect to the Mayan culture and the indigenous people of Mayan descent.”
Mayans are readily found in Bath Beach and Bensonhurst, the center of Brooklyn’s small but fast-growing Guatemalan population, which has more than doubled, to about 9,000 from about 4,000, since 2000, according to the 2010 census. A large number of the neighborhood’s Guatemalans are from the heavily Mayan Totonicapán province in the western highlands.
At Jireh restaurant on 18th Avenue, where an image of the Mayan temple of Tikal adorns the awning, the owner, Jeremias Alvarado, said last week of the apocalypse, “It’s kind of funny, it doesn’t affect me at all.”
To be sure, any skepticism in Bath Beach might be due in part to the fact that most Guatemalans in Brooklyn embrace Christianity, which has its own eschatological traditions, none of which involve the world ending tomorrow.
“The Bible says we don’t know when the end is going to come, but we should be prepared,” Mr. Say Garcia, 23, said.
Opposite Mr. Alvarado’s restaurant, at the Jovenes Cristianos Evangelical Church, where women and children gathered in a day care room before Sunday’s services, Olga Batz, 25, said she thought the doomsday idea held some appeal – though not to her – because “a lot of people like to scare themselves.”
“Not even the angels know when the world will end,” said another member of the church, Jeremiah De Jesus, adding that many Mayans first heard of the end-of-the-world theory through the American media.
“In Guatemala,” he said, “nobody that I know who is Mayan is even talking about it.”