Cobán’s Rabin Ajau Pageant, Guatemala

text and photos by Gary Kaney

Women from more than 90 communities competed last month in the single-most impressive festival of indigenous tradition in Guatemala: the Folkloric Festival of the Rabin Ajau in Cobán and the election of the Princess Tesulutlán. Contestants wore their colorful native finest, including the colorful hüipil, head dress and jewelry unique to their village—but it was more than a beauty contest. The women represented were outstanding in their accomplishments of education and service to their communities.

The event was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. but did not commence until 8:30 with the first 90 minutes taken up by marimba bands and thank-you speeches to the sponsors. At 10 p.m. the first contestant made her way slowly onto the stage. She bowed profusely to each corner of the incense-filled auditorium and slowly walked down the runway before the judges. At 12:30 a.m. there was a “half time” (40 of the 90 contestants had graced the stage at that point), and we left the contest to await the results in the morning paper.

Miss Sololá was crowned Princess Tesulutlán, and we saw her the next morning parading in front of our hotel, La Posada. It was great fun, and I took too many pictures (even though I only photographed half the contestants) but enjoyed the color and costumes.

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