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Mayan mania: end of times or new era?

What better place to celebrate the end of times than in a town known as "The End" in the Mayan language? As thousands prepare to celebrate the start of the new Mayan calendar on December 21, tourists are heading here to the remote Mexican town of Xul to usher in a new era. The end of the current Mayan calendar, which spans about 5,125 years, has sparked fears that it could spell the end of days. But many local indigenous Mayans are perplexed by the apocalyptic paranoia, saying it's a misinterpretation of their beliefs. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) PEDRO UICAB MAY, LOCAL MAYAN REPRESENTATIVE, SAYING: "Our belief is that is it merely the end of a cycle that is ending in the Mayan culture. We don't believe anything tragic or disastrous will happen to us." But with Mayan lore grabbing global headlines, some descendants of the Mayans here in Guatemala say the attention is in stark contrast to their daily realities. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) SPIRITUAL LEADER, JUAN JOSE CHIRIZ, SAYING: "In spite of representing 70 percent of the population in Guatemala, we have been marginalised by discrimination, exclusion, racism and also poverty." The Mayan civilization thrived between 250 and 900 AD, and extended from modern day Honduras to central Mexico. In May, a Reuters-Ipsos poll found that nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime, while 10 percent think the Mayan calendar could signify that it will happen in 2012.

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