Synthesis 2012 Festival marks Mayan date with a creative contribution

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Local Mayans appreciate the large Ascendance stage that volunteers built for the Synthesis Festival and a community offering.
Steven T. Jones

The Synthesis 2012 Festival near Chichen Itza, Mexico got off to a rocky start, but by the time the Mayan Long Count calendar ended on Dec. 21, it had transformed into an inspiring example of working through adversity to build community and connect with another culture.
According to a variety of volunteers and performers associated with the festival, Executive Producer Michael DiMartino over-promised and under-delivered just about everything: hotel rooms, shuttles to and from Cancun and other cities, food for volunteers, and local permission for a stage at Pyramid Kukulkan and the camping area where thousands of festival-goers stayed. On top of that, the bus carrying the sound system and other supplies got turned around by authorities at the border, causing the crew to scramble locally for sound and building equipment and supplies.
"Not everything came together the way we planned, because it's Mexico, but everyone came together and created community," Debra Giusti, the Harmony Festival founder who helped DiMartino with Synthesis (and who calmly and creatively resolved many of its problems, say several sources) told me on Dec. 23, the festival's final day. "There was so much love and unity and can-do spirit."
At one point before the festival officially began on Dec. 20, federal police and local officials shut down work on the Ascendance stage, blocked access to the adjacent camping area, and gathered everyone there into a group, dressing down DiMartino and taking him away in a police car to resolve their differences.
The crew of mostly Northern California residents that showed up more than a week before the festival began to build the Ascendance Stage that would host the DJs and other musicians worked through their frustrations with event organizers to forge strong connections with the mayor and other locals, throw a great party, and leave a lasting gift for the Mayan people.
"We fed everyone, spent almost $16,000, dealt with the authorities, made friends with all the locals, and stayed with our intention to build this temple for the galactic alignment," Ken Currington, aka Shombala -- one of the project leaders working beside Tulku, the main guy -- told me. He said he felt proud and humbled by the experience.
The impressive and ornate pyramid-style temple was built with locally sourced wood, bamboo, and steel in the parking lot of a Mayan stone-carving business in Xcalacoop -- just over 9km from the main festival hub in Piste Pueblo, past the Pyramid Kukulkan in Chichen Itza -- after the locals embraced their offer to leave it as a permanent display structure for the Mayan artwork.
"One local Mayan who came by was in tears and he said this was the one of the best offerings to the Mayan people," Currington said.
The visitors helped prepare and participate in a locally produced festival marking the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, a gesture of goodwill that helped overcome initial missteps. Some local Mayan elders also took part in a Synthesis ceremony at the pyramid in Chichen Itza at sunrise that day.
At the all-night dance party that began on Dec. 22, which featured a long list of Bay Area DJs and other performers, local families came to see the spectacle, which also  included live creation of paintings, mandalas, and other artworks and aerial yoga swings. All the locals I talked to seemed to enjoy and appreciate the event, except for one stern-faced police officer who simply said, "No se (I don't know)," when I asked what he thought.
"This was amazing because it drew people from all over who felt called to be here," Giusti said. "They went into the jungle and made art."
One area where DiMartino (who hasn't yet responded to my questions about problems with the festival) did seem to deliver was in booking and delivering keynote speakers, who spoke from the stage at the Hacienda restaurant and hotel complex in Piste Pueblo, where meals were also provided to VIPs and those who bought the most expensive tickets.
Keynote speaker Don Miguel Ruiz, a Toltec author and thinker, told the Synthesis 2012 Festival crowd that changing the world starts with an internal change, a change in consciousness. "If we can change our own story, if we can find that peace and that joy," he said, then we can project that out into the world. "The change we want to see in the entire society starts with us. We can't give what we don't have."
At this point, it's our collective responsibility to seize the moment and help bring about the transformation that the world is waiting for. "We can be part of the solution for humanity or we can be a part of the problem," he said.
Manifesting the solutions begins by tapping our creative energies. "Whatever we create first begins in our imagination," Ruiz said. "Then we make it real."
"In my imagination, humanity has already changed. We are going in the right direction. We can make it happen. Day one is today," Ruiz said on Dec. 22, drawing a raucous reaction from the large crowd. "Everything we did in life is completely irrelevant. Right now is the moment."
Another keynote speaker, Caroline Casey of KPFA's "The Visionary Activist" show, also talked about the importance of healing the world by transforming ourselves, and an ancient Hawaiian concept called ho'oponopono, a practice of reconciliation and forgiveness.
As she said, "To love disharmony back into harmony makes the harmony so much more."

Comments

This new Examiner SFBG blog is cool!

Much better than Kos or SFest.

You should stop printing it on paper though so we can save the earth's resources.

Posted by Gest on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

"This was amazing because it drew people from all over who felt called to be here," Giusti said. "They went into the jungle and made art."

Indeed local Mayans were appreciative, as your photo indicates. Gringos bringing gringo love--return airline tickets ready in money pouch.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

I never thought I'd miss stories about Burning Man. I'm gonna go watch "Hair."

Posted by Chromefields on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 12:48 pm

taking a cheap vaca in the spring break capital of the planet.

The left always tears themselves apart. Are you a leninist, a stalinist, a maoist or a trotskyist? Gotta love it.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

Anonymous, you seem to have thought you'd generate some leftist apoplecty with your puny attempt at needling, but I'm sorry to have to inform you that your shots fall well short of your goal and you remain a hopeless ass-clown.

(Trying to be nice here, but you really aren't even *close*.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

The irony of Steven being criticizing for taking a cheap vacay in a third-world country isn't lost on most of us, even if it clearly went over your head.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 7:24 am

Was/is the Age of Aquarius before/after the Mayan Convergence?

In other words, are we pre or post the AgeOfConflict and/or entering/exiting the AgeOfCooperation?

Please do enlighten after reaching consensus with your other RichWorldTourists now vacationing in The Yucatan.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 4:57 pm
Posted by marcos on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 9:43 pm

Harmony's good.

Melody's good.

It's all good.

You can get good shrooms in Quintana Roo. Just take a walk in the bush after any rainfall.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 6:56 am

I suggest that you go back to the Synthesis 2012 web site...opps! you can't they have taken it down. So go to the Synthesis 2012 Face Book site and read some real reports from people that were there and not some quotes from the event staff who are going to tell you what they want you to hear. But don't take my word for it go and read the comments for your self...Steven T. Jones

Posted by Guest on Dec. 28, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

The Synthesis 2012 FB site has been deleting all comments which could negatively effect their image. Nonetheless, there are avenues for those (and it sounds as if it were many) who have been scammed by Synthesis to come together, organize, and problem solve. I wish them the best. Its by sheer arrogance and narcissism from the organizer of this festival which has caused so much trouble for those paid attendees and VIPs. As there have been many signs pre-event which spelled out arrogant gringo; perhaps its a well-deserved learning experience for the west-coast festival scene on how not-to-run a festival and who not-to-get-involved-with.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 30, 2012 @ 2:35 am

I don't need to read the online comments because I was there, experiencing the festival and interviewing dozens of people about what happened before I arrived. As I wrote, DiMartino over-promised and under-delivered just about everything, so I don't think readers would take anything away from my story that would indicate he did a good job with this festival. But I chose to focus on the volunteers who overcame that challenge, worked together, and did something really cool and lasting. Yet if there's more fallout from this festival, or people who want to tell me other stories that I may not have heard, I can be contacted at steve@sfbg.com and may do another follow-up story.

Posted by steven on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 11:01 am

Please join this Facebook group "Synthesis 2012 Scam Awarness" and share your stories. I can't post a direct link to the page due to SPAM filters on this website. Michael DiMartino and the rest of the staff are not answering emails or phone calls. This was such a disaster and and many people were taken advantage of both spiritually and financially.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 30, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

It is truly incredible that a man (Micheal DiMartino, a.k.a., Micheal Drum) having been witnessed by many at 2007 Harmony Festival as he pulled his girlfriend through the festival grounds by her hair, threatening to kill her, could have so many people following him to the "New World."

If change begins from the inside out, you all may want to start with your intuitions.....

Posted by Guest on Dec. 31, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

As some of you may have read my posts on the synthesis 2012 event pages... Myself and many other indigenous people where concerned that Money was being exchanged at all at a sacred site and ceremony. In indigenous culture is is a big no no to accept money for profit or gain of any kind for Ceremony or use of a sacred site. I was told by a couple of elders not to worry that because money was exchanging for this purpose it would fail... As we all can see now... It did fail... In great proportions. I Can see a lot of the "reasons" physically that so many people got ripped off... But the core spirit of it is because of the "pay to pray" aspect. I feel for those who where burned in this mess... I feel for the indigenous people who continue to struggle to practice there spiritual beliefs freely without government or monetary control. I see this as a big awakening on many levels... Opening our eyes to the fact that indigenous people are still being oppressed by governments and greed. Please do not forget the reason everyone went there... The Maya... The Sacred site... The spiritual being of this "time". There are ways to be in alignment with the universal laws of spirit... And money is never ever a part of that. I pray that everyone who was scammed, including the indigenous people, find harmony and balance in this. Please, please remember the indigenous people... And their fight and struggle to keep their traditions and sacred sites. Spread the word, that paying to pray or participate in ANY ceremony is against all laws of spirit. Best wishes to all... To all my relations ... Grandmother Redhawk.

Posted by Guest Redhawk on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

As some of you may have read my posts on the synthesis 2012 event pages... Myself and many other indigenous people where concerned that Money was being exchanged at all at a sacred site and ceremony. In indigenous culture is is a big no no to accept money for profit or gain of any kind for Ceremony or use of a sacred site. I was told by a couple of elders not to worry that because money was exchanging for this purpose it would fail... As we all can see now... It did fail... In great proportions. I Can see a lot of the "reasons" physically that so many people got ripped off... But the core spirit of it is because of the "pay to pray" aspect. I feel for those who where burned in this mess... I feel for the indigenous people who continue to struggle to practice there spiritual beliefs freely without government or monetary control. I see this as a big awakening on many levels... Opening our eyes to the fact that indigenous people are still being oppressed by governments and greed. Please do not forget the reason everyone went there... The Maya... The Sacred site... The spiritual being of this "time". There are ways to be in alignment with the universal laws of spirit... And money is never ever a part of that. I pray that everyone who was scammed, including the indigenous people, find harmony and balance in this. Please, please remember the indigenous people... And their fight and struggle to keep their traditions and sacred sites. Spread the word, that paying to pray or participate in ANY ceremony is against all laws of spirit. Best wishes to all... To all my relations ... Grandmother Redhawk.

Posted by Guest Redhawk on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

Thank you Steven, for painting such a well-rounded picture of the controversial happenings of Synthesis 2012. Thank you for appreciating the beauty we witnessed and giving it the love and respect it deserves And for not saying it was perfectly successful. There was definitely a lot to be desired as far as organization and structure, and I understand that makes relaxing and having a good time more difficult. Fortunately structure is not my Only definition of beauty and a good time, so I was able to soak up A Lot of magic and Amazingness throughout, as many did! I literally felt this light vibration through my body the whole time I was in the Piste and Tulum areas and I attribute that not only to the pyramids, but also to our collective spirit of oneness. It was a beautiful intention we came together over and vibrationally that is what will remain for me into the new year and the new paradigm.

Warmth and Blessings!

Posted by Guest StarCrystal on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

" I literally felt this light vibration through my body the whole time I was in the Piste and Tulum areas"

Esa es lo que se siente cuando se bebe los aguas de los cenotes.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

No, our only "gift" to the Mayans and other indigenous groups of Latin America is theft, paternalism and militarism. Why don't you write about the human rights abuses under U.S.-backed Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico)? Well, you're a journalist, but I don't suppose you ever got around to this communiqué from the Western Mayan People’s Council (Consejo de los Pueblos Maya del Occidente – CPO) concerning the Synthesis 2012 Festival. Here you go:
“It is offensive for the Maya people to see the economic power and government institutions promote the folklorization (sic) of Oxlajuj B’ak’tun, commercializing this important event, creating a political image out of tourist promotion and the presentation of spectacles, in a way that does not appropriately interpret the Mayan view of the world.”

Posted by Ana on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

I am hoping this Micheal DiMartino, a.k.a., Micheal Drum pays his earnest workers who can't afford to return from Mexico.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

Cool off folks. Just another Hippy party. just like a burning man camp - you toss in a lot of money and resources and hope for the best. Bunch of selfish rich white folks from No Cal crying because it was not a new age Disneyland experience. I heard that it was just another day for the locals dealing with tourists. Don't you festival types normally spend 400 bucks on a ticket to some overcrowded noisy rave with 5 dollar bottled water? What else would those kids done over xmas - sit around playing video games? What happened to radical self reliance? bah humbug and grow up!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 10:09 am

What happened to the Synthesis 2012 Scam Awareness facebook page?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

Yes, why was the Facebook page removed?

I wanted to look into this. Feel the fibes (both good and bad).

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2013 @ 5:13 pm