The Mexican government expects 52 million tourists to visit the five states corresponding to the so-called Maya World over the next 12 months for the start of a new cosmic cycle in the Maya calendar.

The tourism office said Wednesday in a communique that the visitors will spend about 270 million pesos ($19.5 million) in the southeastern states of Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatán and Quintana Roo.

On Dec. 21, 2012, the Maya calendar will come to the end of its current cycle, and thus Wednesday marks the start of the countdown of the last year in that culture's long-term solar calendar.

According to the Maya solar calendar, this coming year will be the last year in a cycle of 5,125 years - beginning in 3114 B.C. - and according to scientific evidence found in Maya stelas, codexes and other sources it presages "a change of epoch" for humanity.

The Maya created a calendar with a 400-year base period, each of which was called a "baktune," and each era is comprised of 13 cycles of 400 years, totaling 5,125 years.

"The Maya cosmology has sparked the interest of tourists and students of the matter worldwide, something that will be an important element of tourist promotion," said the tourism office.

Some people think that the cyclical change in the calendar will mean the end of the world, a belief that has raised a certain amount of anxiety surrounding the date.

Epigraphist Sven Gronemeyer, of Australia's La Trobe University, said earlier this month at a gathering of scholars that the inscription which gave rise to the "end of the world" talk merely refers to the end of one cycle of time and the start of another.

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