When asked if the world will end on Dec. 21 -- as some have predicted based on interpretations of the Mayan calendar -- Cristina Coc laughs dismissively.

A human rights advocate in Belize who is of Mayan descent, Coc answers with an emphatic "no." She says the date signifies the end of a 5,000-year cycle in the Mayan calendar and does not indicate the world is coming to a cataclysmic end, as depicted in the Hollywood movie "2012."

"They [the Mayan people] see this as the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new cycle," she said.

Coc will be discussing Mayan spirituality and the calendar during a series of lectures in the Twin Cities starting Sunday and continuing through Nov. 5. She'll speak at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Hamline University and Macalester College, both in St. Paul, and the West St. Paul Rotary Club.

Coc directs a nonprofit called the Julian Cho Society in Belize, where she is an advocate for the rights of indigenous Mayan people. She's been invited to the United States to talk about the work she does but also the "end of the world" date, which "a lot of people are sort of concerned with," she said.

"I've seen quite a bit of films, publications, discussions surrounding this question. But I think what's noteworthy is ... there's been an absence of contemporary Mayan people explaining what Dec. 21, 2012, means to them."

"Our value system ... is built on sustainable livelihoods within our world, our planet. We view ourselves as a part of Mother Nature. And we celebrate that at the end of this cycle because she has sustained us."

Coc says she has been contacted by travel agencies in the United States and Europe interested in bringing tourists to Latin America on Dec. 21.

"Lots of people want to come and sleep at a Mayan temple overnight," she said "It's just, like wow, this is crazy."

And what will Coc be doing on Dec. 21? Celebrating her 31st birthday.

Rose French • 612-673-4352