Rabin Ajau Update

100 Mayan Princesses converged upon the imperial city of Cobánwith the hopes of becoming the next Daughter of the King

Guatemala’s premier Mayan cultural event, the Rabin Ajau illuminated the night with beauty and grace on July 28 in the Imperial City of Cobán, Alta Verapaz. One hundred young Maya girls from all over the country participated in the competition and the election of the new Rabin Ajau, the Daughter of the King. Each participant wore gorgeous ceremonial costumes and each had the chance to display knowledge of her indigenous culture and language. The event is a beauty contest with its main focus on intelligence and authenticity.

Some have criticized the fact that the competition goes on too long. I disagree. My experience after attending the event on three occasions is that part of the magic comes from the fact that it lasts into the wee hours of the morning.

This is also in accord with indigenous celebrations and powwows everywhere, where all-night drumming and dancing are the norm. Plenty of coffee and snacks are always at hand.

The winner, Lidia Dominga Canto Camajá, a lovely girl from Santa María Cunén in the heart of the Quiche-Maya region, received her crown from the outgoing queen at about 1:30 a.m. to the unanimous applause of all in attendance. In a moment the stage was engulfed by a multitude all wanting to shake the hand and congratulate the new sovereign.

The Rabin Ajau event provides the opportunity for girls from all over Guatemala, representing more than 20 tribal and linguistic groups, to come together in a spirit of peace and unity. Many of these girls live in the most humble of circumstances, in rustic earthen-floor cottages, living close to nature. Then one day they are selected in their local competition to represent their region on the national level and, like Cinderella’s, their dreams come true as they take part in the most magical cultural event of the entire Maya World.

Just recently I became aware that in the U.S. there is an event called Miss Indian World where representatives of all the American tribal groups compete. We are going to be looking into the possibility of linking the Rabin Ajau with the sister event in the north.

Guatemala’s Rabin Ajau event continues to be one of the many little-known cultural treasures, which deserves to be elevated to international status and offered to the world as an alternative to all the other beauty contest / bikini-fests.

Events like our Rabin Ajau serve to elevate, inspire and encourage young indigenous girls to believe that everything is possible for those who work hard and persevere. It gives them an experience of living in peace, harmony and solidarity with girls from all the diverse Mayan tribes. The benefits bestowed upon the reigning queen include a trip to the U.S. and participation in numerous local and international events. It also gives the young woman a platform to speak out about indigenous rights, social justice and defending Mother Earth.

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