Our Man In Puebla

James L. Fidelholtz



When I was young, in the last Millennium, ...


Well, we´ve heard so much in recent years about the Millennium that I personally already feel that I´m in the next millennium. Having been trained as a scientist, I don’t worry about my feeling, in that my error is only .3%. My position, on the other hand, is also rationally arrived at, as I will try to explain below.

Since I am among the elite that has known for decades that centuries, millennia and other such oddments in fact begin in years that end with ‘01’ (this, of course, has only been going on since Christ, who was born in the year 1 B. C. and had his first birthday on December 25, 1 [now, I do know that these dates are a crock, and he was actually born about 4 years earlier, and who knows on exactly what date, but the culturally accepted date is what is important here; as a footnote, it is not generally realized that the centuries before Christ do begin with years ending in ‘00’]), I of course was feeling pretty superior. Nowadays, however, just about everybody is conscious of the fact that the first day of the new millennium is really January 1, 2001. Since we’re in the 90’s, however, people are loath to wait, and have tended to assume that the new millennium begins on the first day of the year 2000. I had assumed that this was just the non-mathematical ignorance of the canaille. But I recently read an article in which it was clear that the author had the technical facts about the millennium down pat, but still argued that the millennium should be deemed to begin already in 2000.

If we think about the iconicity of the millennium, I suppose we have to admit that the change from 1999 to 2000 seems like a big deal (there must have been a lot of near misses on the highway from people watching their odometer turn over from ‘X999‘ to ‘Y000’). In contrast, the change from ‘2000’ to ‘2001’, mathematically crucial though it may be, hardly seems epoch-making to the layman.

So I have decided to go with the flow (another 90’s theme), and accept the early beginning of the millennium (by the way, in English this is a difficult word to spell, but I have noticed that the greater attention to this theme with the passing of time has improved people´s spelling, at least with respect to the orthography of this word – one TV channel began announcing a show about the ‘Milennium’, but after a couple of days corrected their spelling). However, since, as I mentioned, I consider myself part of the elite, I of course want to get a head start on everybody else. So I have decided that from today (the date of the last episode of Seinfeld) I will consider myself already to be in the next millennium (more prosaically, also in the next century), thus in fact being in the vanguard, in this respect at least.

This preoccupation with the end of the second millennium (of course it’s an arbitrary date, but that doesn’t change its iconicity for us) is in fact quite normal and understandable, given human nature. Note that the Mayas had a calendar even more complicated than ours in some ways, and more precise than ours is by .02 days/year. For them, the end of a long cycle of approximately 1000 years was a really big deal, and they expected cataclysms, etc., much like our trepidation at the supposed predictions of Nostradamus, etc. But the Mayans didn’t wait for the actual end of the cycle – this anticipation and fear in fact helped bring about the downfall of their civilization a little more that one millennium ago, and AROUND the time of the end of their cycle (at different archaeological sites in lower Mesoamerica, the dissolution of the civilization occurred on different dates, but always somewhere around the end of the cycle as they calculated it). Given my analysis, and taking the Mayans as a historical precedent, I feel supported and vindicated in my decision.

So, as I was saying, when I was young in the last Millennium, ...


James L. Fidelholtz can be reached at jfidel@siu.buap.mx

Maestri'a en Ciencias del Lenguaje
Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades
Beneme'rita Universidad Auto'noma de Puebla, ME'XICO