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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The creative and expansive world of the Maya will soon be on display at Kansas City’s Union Station.

“Maya: The Exhibition” opens Friday morning at 10 a.m. Union Station has worked to get the exhibit to Kansas City since before the pandemic began. Staff didn’t actually learn the exhibit’s artifacts were actually on the way to the metro until last week.

“We started in 2019, on this exhibition. We knew it was going to open up right after our most successful exhibition, Auschwitz. This exhibition was to open four weeks after the close of Auschwitz. We built out this magnificent gallery and had been waiting and working diligently with the government of Guatemala to get the artifacts released. They are so rare, and so specific, the challenges to get them out of the country and to the United States, has been a three month process now,” George Guastello, Union Station President and CEO, said.

The extensive exhibit includes nearly 250 original objects. Most are from the Classic Period dating about 250 A.D. to 900 A.D.

It includes ceramic objects, things made from stone, and shell artwork. There are textiles, traditional dancing masks, and other objects that are still used in Maya ceremonies today.

“It is one of the most culturally magnificent exhibitions that Union Station has ever mounted. Some of the over 300 artifacts that have been brought from Guatemala have never been seen in the United States before,” Guastello said.

Union Station worked with the La Ruta Maya Foundation in Guatemala, as well as the Guatemalan government to bring the exhibit to the Midwest.

“The people will see the Maya as an extraordinary civilization. Mayas are one of the top five civilizations of the world. They didn’t only have the urbanism and the way of water management and how they disposed of garbage, how they organized themselves politically and territorially, but they also had writing. Writing and calligraphy. They had a local graphic language that was able to be written and that makes the Maya one of the top five of the world,” Sofia Paredes-Maury, La Ruta Maya Foundation, said.

The Foundation works to recover Maya objects that were illegally removed from Guatemala.

“What we do is receive them from donations from abroad to bring them back to the region where they were taken illegally out of the country, Paredes-Maury, said. “We also receive objects inside the country that are already registered as cultural heritage of the nation. So, by law, all these objects belong to the state of Guatemala, but they are in the custody of la ruta Maya Foundation for study.”

The Foundation also works to develop exhibitions for educational purposes, like the exhibition opening at Union Station.

Organizers said it’s an exhibit that has something for everyone to enjoy.

“As you can see, it’s beautiful, it’s colorful, it’s a celebration of the culture of the people of Guatemala and the Mayan community. So, we wanted something joyous and happy after the emotionally-moving exhibition of Auschwitz. But this goes to tell the Kansas City community that we’ve built an international relationship to bring exhibitions to Kansas City that have never been seen before,” Guastello said.

Tickets are currently on sale for the exhibition that will be at Union Station through Jan. 31, 2023. Prices start around $20 a person.

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