According to Hollywood, the world is doomed for destruction in 2012. Not so, say the people living near the Mayan ruins in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. “It’s a rebirth,” they say. “It’s a time for celebration.”

There are mixed stories flying across the internet about which, if any, planets will be aligned on December 21, 2012, and many noted scholars and astronomers debunk the end-of-the-world theory altogether.

The stars may or may not be aligned, explain these Hondurans, but 2012 will be a time of positive change, positive energy. An opportunity to move forward and start again.


Through the window at the Mayan ruins

1. Looking across the lush valley from the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras, I realize that this area of Honduras can define itself. It doesn’t need the world to write its story.


Girl walking down the street

2. Copan Ruinas is a charming town with steep and narrow cobblestone streets set far from everywhere but close to the earth. It is significant in the 2012 discussion because of its magnificent Mayan ruins, but the people here are just living their lives one day at a time.


Cowboy in back of truck

3. Cowboys lounge on street corners, tipping their hats as I walk by.


Children selling cornhusk dolls

4. Children from the nearby Chortí community, today’s Mayan descendants, gather on doorsteps, their hands full of the cornhusk dolls they create and sell to generate income for their village, La Pintada.


Statue at Mayan ruins

5. The ruins near Copan are grandiose and detailed but quiet.


Looking down on the Mayan ruins

6. I spend long minutes contemplating the Mayans’ tenacity in creating structure upon structure as new rulers took over. One of the people I am with mentions that it’s a good thing we don’t build White Houses on top of one another.


Tourists exploring the Mayan ruins

7. There are very few people wandering the grounds, and the experience is made more personal with the attention of a guide who is passionate about ancient Mayan history.


Shadows on stairs at the Mayan ruins

8. I watch the shadows bounce across the stone structures and piles of G.O.K. (God Only Knows).


Glyphs on stairs

9. Beneath a shade structure, I stretch my neck to view the one of the longest inscriptions of hieroglyphics on the planet.


Woman in kitchen

10. An archaeologist who has helped unearth the Copan ruins balks at the idea that 2012 will be the end of the world. “It is only the end of a calendar cycle,” he says. “It is a time of new beginnings, not the end of the world.” Just as we would change our calendars on December 31, the people in Copan will do the same.


The underworld

11. At a roundtable dinner, where I have the chance to chat with people who were born and raised in Copan, the message takes on a hopeful tone. In addition to being a pragmatic change in time, some people in Copan look at 2012 as an opportunity to deal with the things that are wrong with humanity. “The change is already coming. Look at all the unrest in the world,” they say, pointing to war, famine, disease and general anger simmering around the planet. One thing is for sure, no one is counting down the days until the end of the world.


Looking out over Copan

12. I relax among my emerald-splashed surroundings in this isolated area of Honduras, far from the fast-paced fury of my plugged-in life, and I hope they are right. We could use a change, a new beginning.


Young cowboy

13. Life in Copan will continue as it always has. People will shop in the market. Children will chase each other down the street, and women will sell hot food from their street stands. Right now, December 21, 2012, is a long way from this corner of Central America.

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