• Cielo Vista

Beauty pageants Mayan style

December 10, 2013

GUATEMALA CITY – If you thought beauty pageants were about tantrums, tiaras and two-pieces, think again. For the past 45 years, indigenous women in Guatemala have been gathering in the mountainous town of Cobán, Alta Verapaz, 200 kilometers north of the capital, to participate in the annual Mayan pageant “Encuentro Intercultural Folklórico Nacional” in the hope of being crowned “Rabin Ajau” (Daughter of the King).

Each year at the end of July or beginning of August, some 100 indigenous women from all over the Central American country descend upon Cobán and assemble in a large sports center to compete for the coveted prize. All of the young participants will have previously been selected as local princesses in smaller, community-wide contests held during the year. 

Instead of catwalks and bikini competitions, the contestants are clothed in traditional Mayan dress and are required to perform prayers, parades and traditional dances in front of the public, who are usually made up of dignitaries, guests and local residents. Judges award points for rhythm, elegance, grace and charm before testing the women on their cultural and historical knowledge – giving additional marks for intelligence, sincerity and spiritual beauty.

During this year’s pageant, organizers stressed: “This is not a beauty contest; it’s about leadership.”

Often used as a vehicle of protest and a platform for making speeches, the pageant is a celebration of Guatemala’s indigenous community, which accounts for roughly half the country’s population but suffers the highest levels of poverty.

The competition can last for four days and is accompanied by folklore singing groups, rodeos and parades that display Guatemala’s cultural heritage. The winner is often announced in the early hours of Sunday morning, after various rounds of competition, and is awarded the White Orchid Scepter and the Sacred Silver Crown, which is adorned with jade and quetzal feathers.

Since 2008, the Indigenous Development Fund, a government agency, has offered the winner of the cultural competition a job: This year’s Rabin Ajau, Leslie Tupil, now works as a coordinator for the institute’s youth unity program.

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

Fishing for the next generation in Quepos
Sponsored content
3 views
Sponsored content
3 views

Fishing for the next generation in Quepos

Scott Cutter / Marina Pez Vela - May 20, 2019

Having completed the 20th edition of the Offshore World Championship in May, and the 7th edition of this iconic event…

Costa Rica announces provisional 40-man roster for Gold Cup
Keylor Navas
6 views
Keylor Navas
6 views

Costa Rica announces provisional 40-man roster for Gold Cup

Alejandro Zúñiga - May 20, 2019

Costa Rica on Monday announced the 40-man provisional roster that will serve as the basis for its 2019 Gold Cup…

Costa Rica allocates $3.35 million for port infrastructure in Limón
Costa Rica
16 views
Costa Rica
16 views

Costa Rica allocates $3.35 million for port infrastructure in Limón

Alejandro Zúñiga - May 20, 2019

The Atlantic Port Authority (JAPDEVA) will manage more than $3.35 million as it explores four projects to support the economy…

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!