YAXCABA, MEXICO (EFE).- The Maya culture, which reached its peak more than a thousand years ago, will soon have a new and enormous museum in the jungles of Mexico divulging its secrets, authorities of the southeastern Mexican state of Yucatan said.
Construction of the Palace of the Maya Civilization began Monday, coinciding with the beginning of the winter solstice, on 400 hectares (988 acres) of land in the municipality of Yaxcaba.
Yucatan Gov. Ivonne Ortega laid the cornerstone for the project, which will consist of six galleries to be built in several stages. The first two will require an investment of 300 million pesos ($23.6 million).
This cultural space will be "a building that shines with technology, but with the same mythical and mystical spirit that invests the archaeological areas of Uxmal and Ek Balam," Ortega said.
She said that the palace, located 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, "will attract an additional 500,000 tourists to Yucutan in the short term."
"We're going to promote the cultural renaissance and the international renaissance of our art and our traditions," Ortega said to hundreds of Indians from nearby towns, most of them living in dire poverty.
The symbolic start of construction was preceded by a ceremony in which an Indian shaman "prepared" the land for the project, which consisted of pacifying the mischievous spirits of the "alushes," mythical spirits of the Mayan culture who can cause problems and accidents if not controlled.
Yucatan authorities were to announce on Tuesday the name of the company that placed the winning bid to build the structure, whose first part should be ready in 18 months.
The new museum, the first of its kind in Mexico, will be located near the well of Aban, one of the many cavities in the rocky Yucatan landscape that fill with subterranean water like ponds, which the Mayas considered sacred and which are common throughout the southeastern part of the country.
The first and principal gallery will hold treasures from Chichen Itza, the second will be dedicated to the "Mayan world and its surroundings," and the third will exhibit miniature handicrafts from that ancient Mexican culture.
Another two will show the Mayan vision of the cosmos and aspects of its concept of the afterlife, while last of all will be an interactive gallery with state-of-the-art technology.
All pieces exhibited at the Palace of the Maya Civilization will be originals, Jorge Esma, director of the Culture Council, the state-run company in charge of managing the cultural riches of the Yucatan, told Efe.
The announcement of the new tourist attraction comes exactly three years before the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, the year that some interpret as the end of the world and others as the beginning of a new era.
For Gov. Ortega, that day "will begin a new era of peace, harmony and brotherhood for humanity."
In Mexico there are about 9 million Mayas, whose culture once covered the current states of Tabasco, Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Yucatan, and what are now Honduras and Guatemala. EFE