September 07, 2018

Rabin Ajaw: the Quest to find the Daughter of the King

Rabin Ajaw: the Quest to find the Daughter of the King
Every July, the town of Cobán, Guatemala has an annual Maya festival with parades, rodeos, and a fair. Each year the center of the festivities is the selection and coronation of “Rabin Ajaw,” the  Daughter of the King. This year, there were 110 Maya women from all over Guatemala that were chosen by their home communities to travel to Cobán and participate in the competition. Described by many as the most important Maya event of the year, judges select the one “Hija del Rey,” or Daughter of the King.

This past spring, our very own Maria of Mayamam Weavers was chosen to represent Cajolá at Rabin Ajaw during our annual fiesta. Maria traveled to Cobán for the week to participate in workshops with the other contestants which led up to the final competition. The winner of the competition is selected for her poise, cultural awareness and ability to speak on contemporary issues. This is not so much a beauty pageant as an opportunity to reflect each communities culture and be judged on leadership values and commitment to maintaining Mayan values. The activities culminate with a parade that includes traditional dancers “Dance of the Deer” and each of the women dressed in their traditional traje, or clothes.


Maria was excited and nervous to represent her home of Cajolá at Rabin Ajaw. Each participant was given a list of 7 topics to choose from and an opportunity to speak about it. Maria chose to speak about the participation of women in politics, education and economics. She explained to the judges and the audience that there are not many opportunites for women but by joining the weaving cooperative, she discovered the power of being part of a group and how it improves your chances to participate. Since becoming a member of the cooperative, she has been introduced to many different people and organizations. She will be traveling to Mexico in November to participate in a cultural conference where she will be explaining backstrap weaving.  

Maria’s favorite part of her experience at Rabin Ajaw was the workshops about her cultural background and identity as a Maya. She learned the importance of traditional clothes in maintaining her cultural heritage and identity. She learned the difference between “traje tipico” (typical dressing) and “indumentaria original” (original clothing). Indumentaria original is the correct term for their hand woven traditional huipils and cortes. Traje tipicio can include all factory-made clothing available today which could be huipils and cortes but not hand woven. The women were encouraged to wear their hand woven clothing as part of an affirmation of their identities as Maya women. Maria was also impressed by the town of Cobán and its commitment to its Mayan identity, particularly with respect to the sacred sites. While Maria wasn’t chosen as the final winner for Rabin Ajaw, it was an amazing experience and she really treasured making new friends from all over Guatemala.