The Caribbean coast resort of Xcaret issued "million-dollar reward" certificates for anybody who survives the end of the world. "In case the world ends on Dec. 21, 2012, the beneficiary must be in Xcaret the day after the cataclysmic event with a valid photo ID in order to request payment," the certificate reads. "In case the world comes to an end, the beneficiary will be fully responsible for repopulating the world."
Sandos Hotels and Resorts, a Spanish-owned all-inclusive resort chain, is promoting a "New Era" celebration at its Sandos Caracol hotel in Playa de Carmen, near Tulum. "We invite guests to celebrate a transition to the beginning of what we, and many Mayan leaders and scholars hope will evolve into a new era of environmental sustainability and cultural consciousness," the hotel's website says.
Expectations are also running high in New Age circles.
Shantal Carrillo helps her mother, The Venerable Mother Nah-Kin, run the Kinich-Ahau spiritual center in Merida, and hopes to lead hundreds of people in an energy-renewing ceremony at the "dawn of the new era" at the Mayan ruins of Uxmal. They hope Uxmal, whose rounded-edge pyramid is unique in the Maya world, will act as an "antenna" for cosmic energy.
"We have performed ceremonies for many years to reactivate the pyramid at Uxmal as an antenna, because it had been unused for many years," said Carrillo, who expects Dec. 21 "to give the world an injection of this energy" by having hundreds of people hold hands at the foot of the pyramid.
It's unclear whether archaeological authorities will allow such ceremonies.
Jose May, of the Merida tourism office, expects all of the city's hotel rooms to be full Dec. 21.
"I'm worried that there are going to be more people than (hotel) rooms," he said. "The people who are coming are basically spiritual, and that could be a problem as well, because those people like to form circles to receive energy, and there is no way to reserve space for that kind of thing at the ruin sites."
Moises Rozanes, who runs the run-down Hostal Zocalo in an old building on Merida's main square, says he once saw a flying saucer and spoke with an extraterrestrial who identified himself as Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec equivalent of the chief Maya god, Kukulkan, the bringer of wisdom.
He "told me the world was going to change, but he didn't say when," Rozanes said, recalling the 1997 encounter. He doesn't know what's going to happen Dec. 21, but is happy his hotel is getting business. "Everything's filling up" as far as bookings for the date, he said.
In all the fervor, Mayas rely on an ancestral calm built of good humor, calmness and the fact that it's too hot to get all worked up about things.
"A lot of people are reading things, and getting scared, about the world ending. But that's not going to happen," said Mayan priest Ildefonso Cahuich May. "God is not going to turn around so fast and say, 'I'm going to kill all my children.'"