Bungle in the jungle - Page 2

A vaunted New Age event creates ugly recriminations

Mexican police blockade the campground, saying the festival did not have permits or permission.

In an interview with the Guardian, DiMartino disputed many of the characterizations on the Facebook site, darkly warning that his lawyer is looking into "the bandwagon of people on a witch hunt." But he repeatedly said that he takes full responsibility for problems at the event and accepts that he will probably lose a significant amount of money once the final accounting is done.

"There were logistical breakdowns, but that doesn't constitute a scam," DiMartino said, noting that he is issuing some partial refunds and "dealing with people on a one-by-one basis."

But both in his public and private statements, DiMartino's tendency to blame the festival's problems on Mexico, or on volunteers, or on forces beyond his control — or, as he repeatedly told me, "systemic problems," as if it was a system he didn't create and run — has only added to people's frustrations with the festival.

Giusti defends DiMartino as a "visionary" who has problems with organization and follow-through. "Michael would act like everything was handled and it obviously wasn't. It was very frustrating."

We heard many stories of DiMartino not responding well, an approach that seems to have helped create many of the problems at the event. Two of the more compelling and condemning narratives come from two longtime festival organizers, Xochi Raye and Corey Rosen, who say DiMartino responded vindictively when they raised concerns about looming problems.

Rosen didn't actually attend the festival, saying he was forced out of his production manager role for raising questions about preparations, such as the ill-fated decision to save money on transporting materials to the festival by using a volunteer crew and bus, which was turned around at the border by officials with concerns for their safety.

"My biggest issue was transportation and safety. Within the festival community, there is an ongoing joke about 'safety third,' but that is just a joke," Rosen told me. "For them to call these unforeseen circumstances is bullshit...There are a lot of unforeseen circumstances that happen in events. But if you plan for the foreseeable one, you can handle the unforeseeable ones."

Rosen goes so far as to say he doesn't believe DiMartino's claims to have made advanced reservations for shuttles and other services that didn't materialize. "People were trusting that Michael had things taken care of, and when I wanted to double-check, people said we didn't need to do that," Rosen said. "Michael told me my negative comments would not create a positive outlook."

DiMartino said his computer and many documents were stolen from his car in Playa del Carmen before the event, complicating festival logistics and making it difficult to provide the proof that people are requesting.

To those who believed that the end of the Mayan calendar, coinciding with other New Age beliefs that Dec. 21, 2012, would be signal the beginning of an era of expanded human consciousness, Chichen Itza was considered a place of spiritual power and significance. That clearly made people more trusting of DiMartino's intentions.

Raye took over some of Rosen's duties — and much more in Mexico, as problems developed in the run-up to the event. She wrote out a long narrative for the Synthesis 2012 Scam site that tells a harrowing tale created largely by DiMartino's undelivered promises and bad behavior when questioned.

"Michael said he had been focusing on getting basic needs such as toilets and water in place by the time we landed, and yet basic needs were not established until we had been there for several days, resulting in production time and volunteers lost, as well as many people becoming sick," she wrote.