Bungle in the jungle

A vaunted New Age event creates ugly recriminations

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Mexican police blockade the campground, saying the festival did not have permits or permission.
PHOTO BY MICAELA TEAL SANTOS

steve@sfbg.com

Talk about karma.

The Synthesis 2012 Festival, which marked the end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar, was supposed to be an opportunity to bring spiritually minded people together around the Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico to help usher in a new age of cooperation and goodwill. That was the vision espoused by Executive Producer Michael DiMartino, a Californian who said he had been leading tours in the area for decades and setting up this event for years.

Instead, this anticipated moment of enlightenment became what can politely be called a clusterfuck, a descent into utter chaos for many volunteers and attendees. Hundreds of Bay Area people traveling to an uplifting holiday event found themselves stranded in an isolated location without the transportation, sustenance, or communications they'd been told would be available.

Now DiMartino is trying to settle a long list of refund demands, and there are threats of lawsuits on all sides.

When I first interviewed him about the festival, back in October, DiMartino was talking like a New Age prophet: "We, through our actions and intentions, create the world and take the path that we are creating," he said.

So DiMartino is walking the rocky path of his own creation, facing recriminations for ignoring warnings about looming problems, and vilified both for his alleged managerial failures and for the sometimes appalling way he treated people.

About 150 people have joined the "Synthesis 2012 Scam Awareness" group on Facebook — which has barred Synthesis staff from joining the discussion — where they're telling their stories of hardship and woe, sharing research into DiMartino's history with other events, and organizing collective responses to the problem.

Micaela Teal Santos, who helped create and administer the Facebook group, told us her honeymoon trip turned into a nightmare of missing shuttles and meals and being forced to camp alone in the jungle after local authorities shut down the festival campground for several hours, missing the long-anticipated sacred ceremony at sunrise on Dec. 21.

It was one of many similar stories. People who were promised hotel rooms by DiMartino arrived to find those rooms had been given away to others and no vacancies were available — at a site far from any other accommodations. Shuttles that were supposed to bring revelers from other towns to the festival site never arrived, forcing people to spend hundreds of dollars on cabs or private shuttles, and volunteers who came early to create the festival often weren't provided food or water at a site that turned out to be five miles from the nearest town.

Luckily for DiMartino, he has been surrounded by people who really do embody the positive, patient, and resourceful values that the festival was meant to highlight, from his co-producer Debra Giusti (founder of the Harmony Festival) to Tulku and the Bay Area crew that created the AscenDance stage to the many volunteers who stepped up to address the myriad problems and voids that manifested as the event unfolded.

"That's the real story, it's how people under extreme adversity came together to make this happen," said Giusti, who has been working almost every day since the festival officially ended on Dec. 23 to deal with its fallout, from the attendees still stranded in Mexico without money to get back to the bus filled with festival supplies that still hasn't returned, to the dozens of attendees who say they feel cheated by DiMartino.

Many of the DiMartino's biggest critics have made efforts to remain positive and couch their criticisms in the New Age style of empowerment and acceptance but it's clearly been a bitter disappointment to attendees who hoped the festival would be a launching pad into a new era of harmony and hope.

Comments

Thank you Steven for your excellent article.

I was not part of this clusterfuck, I did not go. But in the aftermath, some of my friends explained to me some serious issues about how people, particularly staff and volunteers were treated. I decided to assist however I could.

I contacted Xochi and a few other people and helped with some logistics to get the crew that got turned around by the Mexican authorities and then stranded in Texas, along with a lot of irreplaceable instruments and gear, home. I think the last of these people and gear are supposed to get home today, if all goes well. But many other people did much more than me to resolve this and I appreciated the chance to help them.

People, particularly the many good, altruistic people who put their heart and soul into this event need to know the truth and not buy into the slap a coat of positive-thinking on top of a "systemic" problem. I thank you for helping to communicate this.

Festivals need not happen like this. Hopefully the light you have shed on this will prevent future festivals from making similar mistakes. It is also my hope that future festival staff and volunteers have a clearer understanding of what is and is not acceptable from festival organizers and they will demand such.

Posted by Steve Bamm on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

People's lives were risked. Basic needs were not met. This event was said to be successfully marketed by their pr team and watched by many online. People were hurt and told they'd be taken to the hospital by the organizers, yet they did not follow through. The staff knew this disaster was on the horizon and no one stopped to help prevent a synthetic event. illegal matters have taken place at the event and because of the event - possibly fraud, and for sure harassment and threats from the synthesis team - or ex synthesis team, as they are trying to turn our high view away from the prize of truth by saying they are not associated with this event to save their "truths". help the people spread their story to help uncover the truth being hidden.
even though they are not welcome in our discussions, one synthesis organizer who snuck into the group multiple times states this on the page she tells her view
"With only 2000 people, all over at the mainstage at the Hacienda there is NO WAY we had enough people to attend all these things, and the bodies were scattered over 9 km requiring shuttles ...oh and then the Hacienda, with a five ring circus of THREE stages, workshops, speakers, etc. Did anyone EVER think this was realistic? You fell for that? you helped create that? We had enough planned here for 10,000 people but no way to feed or house that many . . . Yes, we are ALL responsible for ruining this and all responsible for rescuing this and we are ALL responsible for denial, ego inflation, over production, and being grandiose. Let's laugh at ourselves, embrace it, and be thankful that we sold a lot of tickets."
here are many's sad stories
http://www.facebook.com/events/243209675809101/
here is the group page
http://www.facebook.com/groups/468771299825383/

Posted by one love on Jan. 16, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

i provided trucking for synthesis and have to date been paid my costs.unfortunately two days ago when i returned the last artists belongings he informed me that all his personall tools ,and fishing gear were missing. i explained to him that micheal di martini had removed them from the shipping truck along with artwork.micheal stated that he had paid for these things.apparently he had not and the artist had had no luck contacting micheal di martinino.the artist told me that he was on the hook for the art that was commissioned and that he lived on a fixed income.fact.
i certently hope micheal takes the time to pay his artists.wheter he had an oral or written agreement.
i hope to hear good news soon.
mark w switzer
mischief lab
arcata california.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 1:20 am

Anyone who has done a project in Mexico will tell you that closing the campground for not having "permits or permission" means that bribes were not paid to the right people or need to be paid again to the right people.

Posted by NNCOCO on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 8:59 am

No it means you didn't apply for the permits , the first stage, apply..pay.
Don't assume it was a shakedown, if they were paid for the Dimartini can post the actually receipt.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 7:02 am

Astrology will not make the world a better place ever. I think its fine for getting a tax-exempt vacation in Mexico though.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 9:35 am

Trapped at Tulum watching your sweetie retch her guts out while not being able to get to Chichen Itza is an apt metaphor for the way that the Yucatan expelled the gringo opportunists and new age scamsters.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 11:24 am

Newage rhymes with sewage.

The idiocy of of assuming that "spiritual" operators are on the level knows no bounds.

Steven ended up getting screwed up the ass by a priest and is now caterwauling to no end.

This is what you get when you try to graft your own need for spiritual fulfillment onto the culture of others who have their own ideas about how their culture should function.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 11:22 am

spread the truth to the masses

video talks about michael's agenda
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=576485529043735

video is a first hand account about negligence of risking people's lives
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amt5Z2ByHww

Posted by truth on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

Being stuck @ the airport for hours only to take a cab and get locked out of the dining room and then get displaced from the campsite. On top of. All of the extra travel expenses the 500.00 i spent for a wrist band was completely useless.... i can't accept that nothing will be done for. Restitution. If i could do it over i would have just gone down on my own, that way i would have had no expectations, which was the quote i kept hearing from staff all week... The problem being when you pay for something you "expect " that your going to get what you paid. For. Complete fail

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 11:48 am

You spent $500 for a fucking wristband to get into Chichen Itza?

Perhaps you should have brought more crystals with you so that the energies were focused, chakras aligned and those pesky toxins flushed?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

Below is a link revealing and giving light to the Truth of what happened in Piste and Xcalacoop Mexico this Dec. solstice. Many people still have not been paid for their services in the USA and in Mexico as well as the 100's of people who are demanding their refunds for services not rendered. We are hoping as a collective community to find legal representation for the people who have suffered their losses.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/tenasi-rama/true-life-wisdom-teachings-fr...

Posted by TRUTH JUST-IS on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 11:57 am

Peace-seeking white people invade third-world paradise seeking "harmony." Proceed to get taken advantage of & develop severe gastrointestinal disorders.

Talk about "getting clear." That's one way to do it.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

No matter how high they raised their voices and shouted indignantly about how they were being inconvenienced, for some reason the Mexicans never managed to understand them.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

Worth noting for it's familiarity in scenarios...

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/djembe-l1/message/15138?threaded=1&var=1&p=2

Yes. The author notes:

"I suppose I may get hate e-mail for saying something about this; I haven't heard anything about it since except reading an article about serious fraud charges that were supposedly filed on him. Maybe he's changed, I don't know what's happened in his life or what restitution he's made to people like my close friends who were promised an opportunity to share in the revenues who ended up losing thousands of dollars..."

Posted by TRUTH on Jan. 25, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

Tough deal. The old hippies expected harmonic convergence but ended up convergence around the bog for shared enlightenment.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

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