19 Kajib Kawoq Team

Defending Human Rights of Indigenous LGTB people

By Asociación Kajib Kawoq

In 1999, various young gay Quetzaltecans met with the desire to host an event that would identify them as native peoples and represent their K’iche’ Mayan cultural identity. The afternoon that the group met coincided with the Umial Tinimit Re Xelajuj Noj event, and as such these youth decided to dress themselves with dresses of Quetzaltecan women. Thus arose the idea of hosting the same event every year to name a successor who would hold the title Umial Tinimit Gay Re Xelajuj Noj.

The first event was financed with the personal funds of the participants. At the event, there was regional food, marimba and a toast to celebrate the first gay indigenous cultural event. In 2000 the event was suspended as the title-holder passed away, and out of respect to his memory the naming of a new successor was not carried out. However, the interest in hosting the event continued to be apparent, and the event resumed in 2001, this time involving a greater number of people and changing it mechanics: instead of being an investiture by nomination it would be by election.

The events continued to happen in subsequent years. However, the organizers of the original Umial Tinimit Re Xelajuj Noj competition argued that the activity of Umial Tinimit Gay Re Xelajuj Noj was a satire towards the indigenous Mayan community and women. The National Culture and Sport Commission undertook an investigation into the roots of the discontent and determined that Umial Tinimit Gay Re Xelajuj Noj did not undervalue the identity of indigenous women. On the contrary, the event extolled the indigenous Mayan culture of the Quetzaltecan people. However, from here on, the name of the event changed to Ali Gay Tinimit Re Xelajuj Noj (Miss Gay of the Xelajú People). Although during some subsequent years the event was not held, since 2014 it has been organized uninterrupted.

During a parade in the Parque Central of Quetzaltenango. Photo: Kajib Kawoq

Along with the events of 2008 and 2009, part of the Quetzaltecan LGBT community formed a community organization in order to later be supported by organizations such as the Fernando Iturbide Foundation, PASMO, Association of Comprehensive Health (ASI) and others. In this way, they were able to offer informative workshops about HIV as well as offering testing and free supplies and materials about sexually transmitted infections and human rights to the LGBT community.

With this base of work arose KAJIB KAWOQ, which means “four guardians,” as the number 4 is important in the Mayan worldview. The organization has participated in different activities both local and national, like marches for sexual diversity and training in health and justice, and also in decision making at the national level. In that way, alliances between organizations with common objectives have been formed, counting on the sponsorship of organizations such as the Association of Investigation, Development and Comprehensive Education (IDEI), National Network of Sexual Diversity and HIV of Guatemala, and the Episcopal Church of St. Mark in Quetzaltenango.

For the 2018-19 year, thanks to the support of the Humanist Institute of Cooperation for the Development HIVOS Guatemala, the project “Xela Diverse and Inclusive” has been undertaken, working on campaigns with the indigenous and non-indigenous population of Quetzaltenango to raise awareness of parents, teachers and the media, while also declaring public and private locations within the municipality of Quetzaltenango to be free of stigma. The objective of this project is the respect of the human rights of sexually-diverse people with the goal of achieving the recognition, visibility and inclusion of the LGBT community in Quetzalteca society.

Kajib Kawok can be contacted through its website: www.cuatroguardianes.org.gt, by writing them at: kajibkawoq@cuatroguardianes.or,gt or finding them on Facebook: Kajib Kawoq/Cuatro Guardianes.

Cover photo: Asociación Kajib Kawoq