“Apocalypto“>Apocalypto is important,” says the first Maya to see the film.
An article in Tidings, the newspaper for the archdiocese in Los Angeles, interviews a Maya cleric in the Los Angeles area who saw the film. Here’s the article:
Mel Gibson’s bloody “Apocalypto” film about the fall of the Maya civilization is important because audiences “will realize Mayans still exist,” says Deacon Felix Rac, a Mayan native originally from Guatamala City who ministers at Christ the King Church in Hollywood.
“This movie will help us,” said Rac, who saw the movie during its opening weekend Dec.8-9 where it came in at No. 1 at the box office earning $14.2 million. Even though the movie “in general showed only one side — the survival side” with gory depictions of human sacrifice — it brings attention to the “underestimated” Mayan people, said Rac.
Rac described the movie’s “one after another” ritual killings as a “very extreme” portrayal of a people “desperate to please God.” He said the violence didn’t negatively impact him since, “that was then, this is now.”
From his perspective as a Mayan immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, Rac says he often encounters people who believe the Mayan civilization died out a long time ago, including a diverse group of Los Angeles Community College students he spoke to a few years ago.
In reality, more than a million Mayan descendants live in Mexico, and Mayans are the majority in seven out of 22 states in Guatamala, according to Rac. Because the language in the film is in Yucatecan Maya from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and Rac speaks the Mayan Cakchiquel language, he only understood two words in the film: “balam” for jaguar and “Kukulkan” for God.
Though the movie focuses on the “crude and cruel beginning” of a new life for the main character, “Jaguar Paw,” and his family, it also portrays positive aspects of Mayan spirituality which continue to this day, said Rac. “The Mayan people see God in everything, in every breath they take. They are faithful to family, God and nature,” he explained.
Though “Apocalypto” has been described by critics as a heart-pumping “chase movie” through the jungle, the film has more than violence, said Rac; it also reflects glimpses of Mayan spirituality and empathy for one another. He notes an early scene where Jaguar Paw’s father counsels his son never to succumb to fear and a later scene where a husband’s eyes fills with tears as he helplessly watches an attacker rape his wife.
Growing up in Guatamala as the only boy in an indigenous family of eight children, Rac experienced racism first-hand as people would cross the street to avoid him. “They called us Indians,” remembers Rac. When his parents moved to Guatamala City, they learned Spanish to aid their assimilation.
“We are looking for peace and a land to grow up in and to grow in faith,” said Rac. “We have been displaced from wars, violence and killing and are still looking for a new beginning.
“I thank Mel Gibson for at least showing Mayans to the world,” said Rac. He urges “Apocalypto” viewers “not to get trapped into thinking that Mayans still act that [violent] way. They still have faith and love for one another and nature. They are looking for peace.”
And, regarding the Mayan prophecy that the world will end in 2012 according to the Maya calendar, pay no heed, says Rac. “That date is when the Mayan calendar ends — not the world,” he stated with conviction.