Mayan Queen Heidi Sofia Chitop Grave, 15, representing San Miguel Uspantan, Quiche.
Mayan Queen Natalia Rosmely Panjoj Saquic, 20, representing Santo Tomas Chichicastenango, Quiche, poses for the picture during the Rabin Ajau National Folkloric Festival in Coban. July, 2011Mayan Queen Heidi Sofia Chitop Grave, 15, representing San Miguel Uspantan, Quiche.
Mayan Queen Yesenia Vasquez Larios, 17, representing San Miguel Chicaj, Baja Verapaz.
Mayan Queen Teresa Gonzales Ixtetela, 18, representing San Pedro La Laguna, Solola.
Mayan Queen Veronica Leticia Mejia Baten, 15, representing San Pedro Jocopilas, Quiche.
In a country where about 40 percent of people self identify as indigenous, the National Indigenous Queen of Guatemala contest carries great prestige. In contrast to mainstream beauty pageants, the contestants for the Rabin Ajaw title, aged 14 to 26, have to demonstrate proficiency in their native language, Mayan traditions and worldview; awareness about mining and other threats to Mayan livelihood and resources; a nuanced view of gender roles; and leadership in their community.
The 19th century style Afghani wooden box camera used by the photographer meant that the women had to sit still for several minutes gazing into the camera, enabling a depth of engagement rarely achieved with today’s hectic technology.