Mayans pray for Obama ahead of visit

(China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-22 07:58
Large Medium Small

CIUDAD ARCE, El Salvador - El Salvador's Maya Indians on Sunday invoked the forces of nature in an ancient ritual to help US President Barack Obama - set to visit the Central American nation - make wise decisions.

The ceremony for Obama was part of an annual equinox ritual held by members of the country's Maya community.

"We beg the volcanoes, the mountains, and the grandmothers and grandfathers, to call on the energy of the sun to surround ... Obama as he makes decisions," an indigenous shaman named "Tata" Neto said.

Five Maya priests, including Neto - also known as Jose Ernesto Campos - tossed candles and cacao seeds onto a fireplace on a stone altar at an ancient Maya ceremonial site.

Around 100 people who gathered for the ceremony prayed.

"We are going in the wrong direction of our grandfathers and grandmothers, who 7,000 years built the Maya civilization," said another priest, Francisco Rozas.

"Untangle the spider web of all this technology," said a third priest.

The ceremony was held at the Tec-Pan Maya ceremonial center, near Ciudad Arce, some 25 kilometers northeast of the capital San Salvador, under the watchful eye of three US Secret Service agents preparing for Obama's visit.

Obama is scheduled to visit El Salvador on Tuesday and Wednesday during the final leg of his three-nation Latin America tour. The US president began the trip in Brazil, and is set to be in Chile on Monday.

The Mayans are descendants of communities that built pre-Columbian stone cities in the Central American jungle. The culture thrived between 250 and 900, then broke up into competing city-states that were captured by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.

Maya communities, found today across much of Central America and southern Mexico, have faced discrimination and acts of genocide.

One of the priests recalled the 1932 slaughter of 30,000 Maya Indians during the rule of General Maximiliano Hernandez.

The Maya were also targeted during El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war.

Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 03/22/2011 page10)