This pageant which is not won: The Rabin Ahau, Maya women, and the Guatemalan nation
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe "Rabin Ahau," Daughter of the King in Q'eqchi, is elected annually in a pageant in Coban, Guatemala to represent indigenous women before the Guatemalan nation. Although the contest takes the form of a beauty pageant, the criterion on which the candidates are judged is their authenticity as Maya women; their authenticity, in turn, guarentees Guatemala's distinctiveness in the international community of nations. This thesis explores what signifying authenticity requires of would-be Rabin Ahaus, when being Maya at all in Guatemala has historically been life-threatening. It links the aestheticization of Indianness to the ethnocidal racism which literally erases Maya bodies from the national territory, and examines how Guatemalan nationalist discourse uses mimesis and commodification of "the Indian" to create and control an Indian essence; it indicates, also, how the participants in the contest work mimetic excess to triangulate official authenticity and assert different meanings of the Maya.
Degree ProgramGraduate College