Don Tómas Calvo is a Mayan Elder of the K’iche’ Mayoral of Santo Tomas de Chichicastenango, is a guardian of the Popol Vuh, the Mayan holy book, the spiritual leader, and the highest moral and ancestral authority of the Maya, described as the Mayan Pope. He was chosen at a young age to become Niwinaq, and is highly revered among the Mayan people, who number about half of Guatemala's 15 million citizens. Don Tómas is leading a delegation of Mayan elders visiting New York to share their message with humanity and correct misconceptions about December 21, 2012.

I work at the Guatemalan Mission to the UN, which in conjunction with organized the trip to NY, and I am posting this AMA on Don Tómas's behalf. I will translate the best/most upvoted questions into Spanish and pose them to Don Tómas's scribe, another mayan elder, and he will translate them into the K'iche' language and ask them to Don Tómas. K'iche' is a mayan language spoken by about 1 million people in Guatemala's central highlands and is the only Language Don Tómas speaks.

[edit] I'll relay some questions on Monday, and more in the next few days. Feel free to address your questions directly to Don Tómas, if you have a question for me, address it to "Jonah" (my name). I can see below that you guys have already asked several good questions. That said, there are only so many times one can answer the basic common questions. Feel free to ask more specific, elaborate, or outside-the-box questions. As long as the question is polite, I'll do my best to have it answered.

[edit 2]

wow thanks for all the questions! I'm heading over to meet with Don Tómas right now so I'll start posting answers in about half an hour!

[proof 1](

MayaNow's website

[edit 3] lets get started!!

Huffington Post Article about the visit

IMPORTANT NOTE: i just finished talking to Don Tomas and posting several answers. I'll interview him further later today, stay tuned! Just for clarification, EVERY ANSWER BELOW THAT I POSTED IS DON TOMAS'S, with the exception of a question posed to me regarding proof. Unless I explicitly say otherwise, it is Don Tomas speaking. We'll be back later to answer more questions, Maltiox!! (thank you in K'iche')

Hurricane update: thank you all so much for your questions ad interest. I am genuinely sorry because there are so many really thoughtful inquiries that we didn't get to. Right now we have no electricity or running water or internet (im on my phone right now) and won't have any for a few days. I'm cautiously optimistic that when power is restored we can answer more questions, but I don't really know when that will Be. Hopefully this is not the end of this AMA, but if it turns out to be I want to sincerely thank you, on behalf of myself and don Tomas.

Comments: 443 • Responses: 10  • Date: 

supergalacticcaptain226 karma

Is it an actual Mayan belief that the world will end December 21st, 2012?

If so, why?

If not, how and why has this become so misconstrued?

DonTomasCalvo227 karma

First of all, thank you for all the questions. I am thankful that you have written your questions here and for your interest about the event of the 21st. the world will not end. it is only a change of era. an era of the mayan calender ends, but another begins. because in this era of technology the people has access to information, but that information is not all good, you have to be selective on what information you trust. furthermore, you need to be able to discern.

Yamato7101 karma

How do you feel about the fact that so many indigenous languages of Latin America have been lost, and that most people have adopted Spanish and Catholicism? Is there any resentment still in Guatemala for these colonial legacies?

Thanks for doing the AMA :)

DonTomasCalvo105 karma

yes, it is true that there is a phenomenon that some elements of the indigenous identity are lost. But they would not be lost if we, the fathers of a family, teach our children well. Teaching them to value their culture, their roots, their languages, their vestments. We need to teach them to be proud of this, this gives them a unique badge of honor, and that is very important.

igormorais83 karma

I had no idea the Maya were still around. We hear of it as a dead civilization. What is the current status of your people?

DonTomasCalvo78 karma

the mayan civilization is very old and has existed for a long time. It will continue to existing, possibly in a different form, possibly we don't dress the same way as we did in the classical period, in the year 250 a.d., but the culture and the principles are thriving, in the region that I govern. I would like to invite all of you to come see us in Guatemala.

DonTomasCalvo28 karma

the mayan civilization is very old and has existed for a long time. It will continue to existing, possibly in a different form, possibly we don't dress the same way as we did in the classical period, in the year 250 a.d., but the culture and the principles are thriving, in the region that I govern. I would like to invite all of you to come see us in Guatemala. - Don Tomas


Poot_Tweet72 karma

What is your most sacred symbol (abstract or concrete) and what does it mean to the Mayan people? What are some different gender roles, or how are family and work responsibilities divided between men and women? How do the Mayan people view their own society, generally? I'm not sure if, as a people they reflect upon the meaning or significance of their own society (westerners often view Mayan society as precious, exotic, maybe savage)? What sorts of plants or animals are important in Mayan culture? I realize and am sorry that these questions are somewhat vague and definitely off topic in the context of the OP. I have an extensive background in cultural anthropology.

Edit: I realize that there is great variation among and within Mayan societies. I was hoping for overarching commonalities.

DonTomasCalvo99 karma

in the mayan civilization, there exists a principle of duality, what asian people call ying-and-yang. There is an interconnection between different genders and their roles. So the powerful posts in the mayan culture are ruled jointly between husband and wife, so we make decisions together. because a family is led by two people- father and mother. And so we walk with two feet, not with one.

CyrusII64 karma

Why did you felt the need to travel to UN to talk to the delegates of different countries? What is the most important message that you wanted to deliver to UN?

DonTomasCalvo71 karma

Because it is important to bring the message of peace during the change of era. All the world leaders come together in this city, so its important to bring the message to these leaders about the change in era, because it is a chance for humanity to change our ways.

eraserh43 karma

This is awesome! Thanks for doing this AMA, Mayan history and culture is so rich and fascinating, but unfortunately extremely misunderstood. I'm so happy you're visiting my city and I hope your mission is successful.

1) How much has the actual worship of the Mayan religion changed since colonization? Obviously sacrifice is no longer practiced, but what other changes has the religion undergone? Has it syncretized with Christianity to any extent?

2) Jonah says that K'iche' is the only language you speak, but has any Spanish crept into the language as slang? Have any Spanish words become commonplace in K'iche'? Have any K'iche' words become commonplace in Spanish?

3) Ancient Maya was never really one centralized empire like the Aztecs or the Incas - there were a number of power bases at Chichen Itza, Tikal, Calakmul, etc that all fought and formed alliances for supremacy throughout centuries of history and upheaval. Do modern Maya see themselves as the descendants of one single Mayan ethnic group, or do they identify (perhaps according to family tradition) with a particular Mayan city-state?

4) If you could correct any misconception about the Mayan people, what would it be?

5) Do you feel like the Mayan people are neglected by your government in Guatemala? Are you treated with the respect that your people and your history deserve? Are the governments in Mexico and Honduras respectful of their Mayan populations as well?

6) What is your opinion of the influx of tourists to places like Chichen Itza or Tikal? Are they inappropriate, or do you think it's an opportunity to spread understanding about your culture? On that note, do architects keep in mind the concerns of your community and the current religious significance of those places?

7) Welcome to New York! When your work is done, are you going to visit the city as a tourist? What do you have planned?

Again, thank you so much for doing this AMA.

DonTomasCalvo50 karma

4) the mayan civilization, to which we trace our roots, formed the world, it is represented in the stars and sun, and because of that we are reverent and always ask, where does the sun come from? This we have to do every time we wake up, in a house, apartment, or anything; pay reverence to the sun in order to live one day more.

6) I would like to congratulate the people that visit these places and my my homeland, because they are interested in learning about the elements of this culture. and this culture is open to all the world. we have a lot that we want to share with all of humanity.


It is very interesting to get to know this beautiful city. it is a big contrast with the mountains of our homeland. Seeing these tall buildings and people rushing to get to work- its a big contrast. nevertheless, we see that people are the same everywhere, in the mountains and in the city.

RaptorPrincess20 karma

I just wanted to thank you and the elders for spreading the word. SO many people seem panicked by this huge misconception about doomsday, it's really wonderful to see the Mayans clearing up the meaning behind the "end" of the calendar.

Question for Jonah- how did you end up in the position of working with the Mayan elders so closely? I'm jealous, for sure.

DonTomasCalvo27 karma

Me (Jonah) responding here, not Don Tomas talking.

I am an intern at the Guatemalan Mission to the United Nations, which worked in conjunction with to organize the trip. I took the initiative to organize this AMA because I believe, as Don Tomas does, that the worlds needs to hear what the Mayan people really believe about 13 B'aktun, not what idiots who don't even know that there are Mayan people today and who don't respect the culture tell them.

Bigbadboy118 karma

2 questions:

When do you think Guatemala will have an indigenous president?

What do you and the Mayan people think about Rigoberta Menchu?

DonTomasCalvo34 karma

God willing we will have an indigenous president in my lifetime, and if not in the lifetime of my son.

darktemplardude7 karma


DonTomasCalvo15 karma

I just posted a pic above, take a look. Tomorrow as soon as I see him I'll ask Don Tómas to take a picture with a paper with "reddit" written on it. Hopefully the pic above marked "proof 1" is enough for tonight.