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First 'Miss Indigenous Ecuador' Is Crowned

In this Saturday, May 23, 2015 photo, Jenny Guillin, a 19-year-old Puruha Indian, is crowned the winner of the Miss Indigenous Ecuador beauty contest, at the the Casa de la Cultura theater in Quito, Ecuador. Organizers say she now gets the right to participate in the Miss Ecuador contest. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)Dolores Ochoa / AP

Ecuador is known for its rich culture and deep indigenous roots, and a new beauty contest is aiming to preserve that heritage.

Jenny Guillin, of the Puruha people, was crowned the first Miss Indigenous Ecuador, or “Ñusta Andina.” The 19-year-old was among eleven contestants who participated in the May 22nd contest. In order to compete, the young women had to belong to one of the country’s many indigenous groups and speak one of its native languages.

The contestants did not walk in their bathing suits or evening gowns, but the four-hour event consisted of the women showing off their cultural outfits, dances, and languages like kichwa. In fact ñusta is a kichwa word that refers to a young maiden or unfertilized land, according to El País.

One of the contestants, Mariuxi Grefa of Arajuno, sits still in a dressing room of the Casa de la Cultura theater as a friend paints her face in preparation for the typical native dress category of the Miss Indigenous Ecuador beauty contest, in Quito, Ecuador.Dolores Ochoa / AP

The Miss Indigenous Ecuador winner has an opportunity to participate in the Miss Ecuador contest.

“The indigenous woman has a right to participate (in beauty pageants), to be a representative of her indigenous neighborhoods. We want to erase the idea that indigenous women have to be behind a cow, running after the kids, and after her husband,” said Inti Daquilema , organizer of the event, to El Pais.

Miss Indigenous Ecuador winner Jenny Guillin walks across the stage at the start of the Miss Indigenous Ecuador beauty contest, at the Casa de la Cultura theater, in Quito, Ecuador. Black high-heeled pumps were the only truly Western clothing on display.Dolores Ochoa / AP

Guillin’s crown is not the typical white diamonds tiara. The $5,000 crown is filled with symbols and specifically designed for this contest. It contains a “chacana,” or indigenous cross and a symbol for the sun.

The 19-year-old winner is an Economics student and said her goal is to participate in the Miss Ecuador pageant and show the richness of its native cultures. Guillin said during one of her presentations in the contest, "We are not museum pieces, we are a culture which is alive."

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