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The Rabin Ajau Festival

Considered the largest and most important Mayan festival, Rabin Ajau is celebrated on a gran scale, with firecrackers, cofradia processions and traditional dances in Cobán. Meaning ‘the daughter of the king’ in the Mayan Q’eqchi language, the Rabin Ajau festival is the crowning of the country’s Mayan beauty queen. Held on the last Saturday of every July, this is a great opportunity to learn about Guatemala's Mayan heritage, and become immersed in local celebrations that have been preserved for centuries.

The contenders for the role of Reina Indigena (indigenous queen) are not only judged by their looks, but also the languages they speak, their knowledge in traditional customs and ceremonial presentations. Mayan beauties from all over the country travel to Cobán for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Parading in their traditional huipil and headdress, they flaunt their skills in weaving baskets and handicrafts. A yearly event since 1947, the Cobaneros are proud to call this feisty and spirited occasion their own.

The event is usually scheduled to commence at 7.30 p.m., but typically does not start until 8.30 p.m. Attendees are entertained by marimba performances and thank-you speeches before the contestants are unveiled. Held in the Instituto Nacional de la Juventud, Alta Verapaz (INJAV), next to the stadium, seats are sold for $7.25 and a standing-room ticket costs $5.50. Try to squeeze into one of the side balconies for a better view. Book your tickets in advance at the Palacio de Gobernacíon to avoid disappointment.

By Nellie Huang
29 Sep 2009

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