The movie Apocalypto masquerades as a historically accurate description of the Mayan civilization before colonization by the Catholic Spaniards.
It has failed miserably in this endeavour. A key consultant among several archaeologists who served as advisers on Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” has expressed his disappointment that the film overlooks many of the Mayas’ cultural and scientific achievements and portrays the people as “bloodthirsty savages.” He admitted the sets, makeup and costumes are “accurate to the nth degree,” and that it’s a great action film, but believes that people who don’t know anything about the Maya culture might not might not realize from watching it that there was more to the Maya than bloody human sacrifice.
Here are some excerpts from the reviews by experts on the Mayan civilization:
… these “authentic” touches are buried in a biased view of the Maya that offers only the negative aspects of the people… The city is shown as blighted and filthy, and there are no re-creations of the stunning plazas filled with florid art. This was a culture with complex astronomy, a 365-day calendar, and their own writing system, but none of these achievements is celebrated or acknowledged in the movie.
When the Spanish arrive at the end of the movie, his dominant message is that the Maya were corrupt and merciless without any redeeming values who needed the arrival of the Christian Spaniards to save them. It’s his own message of salvation through the European Christians. This time, instead of being anti-Semitic while drunk, he’s anti-Maya while working.
Spaniards killed 23 million indigenous people, raped the women, enslaved the survivors, stole the Mayan lands, and destroyed the last Maya city in 1541.
-“American Holocaust” by David Stannard
there is something very different about portraying a group of people, who are now recovering from 500 years of colonization, as violent and brutal. These are people who are living with the very real effects of persistent racism that at its heart sees them as less than human. To think that a movie about the 1,000 ways a Maya can kill a Maya–when only 10 years ago Maya people were systematically being exterminated in Guatemala just for being Maya–is in any way okay, entertaining, or helpful is the epitome of a Western fantasy of supremacy that I find sad and ultimately pornographic.
The Bigger Human Sacrifice: For the sake of cold war points
The United Nations’ independent Historical Clarification Commission concluded that massacres–which rose to the level of “genocide” during the war’s peak years in the early 1980s–were not random acts of field commanders beyond government control. The genocide was deliberate policy. And U.S. support and training of the paramilitary was crucial, having “a significant bearing on human rights violations.”
Over 200,000 people were killed. Far more than any Mayan human sacrifice.
“United States … support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression … was wrong.”
-U.S. President Bill Clinton, March 10, 1999
Gibson, like most European descent people, conveniently ignores the fact that Europeans were doing more human sacrifice with the inquisition’s torture killings of wayward Christians, the burnings of women, and the public executions of poor people who had stolen a piece of bread. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans were sacrificed to keep the god-like royal elites and the church in power.
In those centuries that Gibson’s Apocalypto takes place Europeans never bathed and were mostly illiterate, while our people were bathing daily in cities that had public toilets and free hospitals. We had mandatory and free education for males and females in all ranks of society. We had great universities and libraries, poets and philosophers, courts with fair laws, and more democracy than any place in Europe.