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, serine, 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 this lake is protected by "three grandmothers", and this is only the beginning, spend time here and you can't help but feel the incredible energy that permeates every crevice, every cave, every one of the three majestic volcanoes surrounding the lake, and the beautiful Maya people; soon you are aware that there is something very deep and mysterious about this place. The Name "Maya" means a person who is connected to the Kosmos. Here, everything follows in a certain 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, 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 some places I was told the depth is thousands of feet deep. Lake Atitlan has it's 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 they are, Panajachel, San Pedro, San Marcos, Santiago, Santa Cruz, and Jaibalito, and 20 different Mayan languages are spoken here, Spanish is the universal language, while 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 nehaul is TOj, and this is my symbol. There are 20 nehauls, and your nehaul is determined by the date you were born on. But the rest of what your nehaul 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 being this is just one part of a very deep and complex belief system that has guided the ancient Mayan 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 buzzards circling above you, only your pretense is dying, you will walk away having a new perspective on what really matters in your life.
It's the energy of the place, the smiling faces you meet along cobble stone 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 coffee, oh yes coffee, 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!
Ceremony was a huge part of my experience in San Pedro. There are times when the air is scented with the spices burned in the fires of the many ceremonies that are common around the Lake. I joke around and say I came here to witness the end of the world, the Mayan apocalypse. And while they have a proven track record of their prophesies 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 is a nearly identical belief of the North American indigenous peoples the heart knows not the color of the skin, the Mayan 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. 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.
My journey to San Pedro was to research the historical spiritual connection between North and South American Native peoples. I visited San Pedro in 2012, the year Americans said the Mayan had predicted the world would come to an 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 can 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 economic, 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.
The whole experience added greatly to my understanding of the disastrous conflicts between white colonist 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.
Some 70,000 Timpanogos Indians — the aboriginal people of Utah — died from violence, starvation, and disease after Mormon colonists stole their land and destroyed their culture over a 21-year time frame. Because few people know anything about Timpanogos Indians, who they are, or what they believed in, I felt it was incumbent upon me to educate people about them.
I believe Native American history is an integral part of this country’s history. After all is said and done, after the Utah Black Hawk War and all the suffering it caused, I make this one conclusion: It isn’t about the war. It isn’t about religion. It isn’t about owning land and having material wealth. It’s not about power. In the end, it’s about the human condition. There is no such thing as race. Race is man’s invention to create divisions and separations, the building of walls and fences to segregate us from one another, to have power over each other. There is but one race, the human race. It’s about humanity, human equality, aboriginal rights and a sovereign people. It’s about there being one world, one prayer, and one heart. Having compassion toward all our relations.”
I am deeply grateful to the Mayan people for helping me to have a better understanding of their culture and and sacred life-ways.
Phillip B Gottfredson shares an intimate perspective of the Timpanogos peoples of Utah and the Black Hawk War of Utah from 1849 to 1873 in his debut Native American history book titled “My Journey to Understand ... BLACK HAWK'S MISSION OF PEACE” (published by Archway Publishing from Simon & Schuster). Buy Now!