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Indigenousness and the Construction of Gender Ideals in 20th-Century Spanish America


Do you agree with Mark Rogers that ‘pageants become sites of struggle in which notions of personhood, gender, ethnicity, citizenship and nationality are reworked’?

Why are there separate ‘Indian’ beauty pageants? What role does ‘authenticity’ play in them?

What is the relationship between these pageants and nationalism?



Konefal, Betsy, ‘Subverting Authority: Reinas Indígenas and the Guatemalan State’, Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 89:1 (2009).

McAllister, Carlota, ‘Authenticity and Guatemala’s Maya Queen’, Beauty Queens on the Global Stage, eds. Colleen Ballerino Cohen, Richard Wilk, and Beverly Stoeltje, Routledge (New York, 1996).

Menchú, Rigoberta, I Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, Verso (1984), Chapter 29: ‘Fiestas and Indian Queens’.

Schackt, Jon, ‘Mayahood Through Beauty: Indian Pageants in Guatemala’, Bulletin of Latin American Research, vol. 24:3 (2005).


Borland, Katherine, ‘The India Bonita of Monimbó: The Politics of Ethnic identity in the New Nicaragua’, Beauty Queens on the Global Stage, eds. Colleen Ballerino Cohen, Richard Wilk, and Beverly Stoeltje, Routledge (New York, 1996).


Cadena, Marisol de la, Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1919-1991, Duke University Press (Durham, 2000), chapter 4: ‘Insolent Mestizas and Respeto’.


López, Rick, ‘The India Bonita Contest of 1921 and the Ethnicization of Mexican National Culture’, Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 82:2 (2002).


Rogers, Mark, ‘Spectacular Bodies: Folklorization and the Politics of Identity in Ecuadorian Beauty Pageants’, Perspectives on Las Americas, eds. Matthew Gutmann, Félix Matos Rodríguez, Lynn Stephen and Patricia Zavella, Blackwell Publishing (Oxford, 2003).


Tossounian, Cecilia, “Beauty Contests and National Identity (Argentina, 1920-1940)”, Atti del V Congresso della
Società Italiana delle Storiche: Nuove frontiere per la storia di genere (Naples, 2010).

To Learn More:

Cadena, Marisol de la, ‘Las mujeres son más indias: Etnicidad y género en una comunidad de Cusco’, Revista Andina, vol. 9:1 (1991), pp. 7-47.

Cadena, Marisol de la, ‘Women are More Indian: Gender and Ethnicity in a Community in Cuzco’, in Ethnicity, Markets and Migration in the Andes: At the Crossroads of History and Anthropology, eds. Brooke Larson and Olivia Harris, Duke University Press (Durham, 1995),

Earle, Rebecca, ‘Nationalism and National Costume in Spanish America’, The Politics of Dress in Asia and the Americas, eds. Mina Roces and Louise Edwards, Sussex Academic Press (Eastbourne, 2007).

Hendrickson, Carol, ‘Images of the Indian in Guatemala: The Role of Indigenous Dress in Indian and Ladino Constructions’, Nation-States and Indians in Latin America, eds. Greg Urban and Joel Sherzer, University of Texas Press (Austin, 1991).