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Maria Mercedes Coroy: Actress of Ixcanul and Activist for Indigenous Rights

Last year, director Jayro Bustamante’s film Ixcanul premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. Critics and audiences alike praised the film’s incredible story about a young, Mayan girl from Guatemala. The film focuses on the main character, Maria, as she comes of age in a society that perpetuates sexism and racism against Mayan women.  

The lead of the film is played by María Mercedes Coroy, an extraordinary actor and activist from Guatemala. Coroy’s performance is absolutely amazing as she brings Maria’s story to life on the screen.

However, revealed in an article by “Remezcla”, Coroy confesses that she was very hesitant to take the lead role. In her interview, Maria Coroy mentions that she was afraid of “failing” the director’s vision. Yet, as Bustamante and critics have confirmed, Coroy was triumphant in her portrayal of Maria.

The film has received great acclaim not only for its beautiful cinematragophy, but also for the political and social statement it is making. Both Bustamante and Coroy have publicly expressed concern about the racism and sexism that exists within Guatemala. Initially, some people who viewed the film in Guatemala did not take the films seriously; laughing in the movie theater when the characters spoke in Guatemala’s indigenous language of Kaqchikel. Yet, this did not discourage the Ixcanul cast from being proud of the masterpiece they created.

Currently, Ixcanul’s cast members and director are on a promotional tour around the world. The film has brought global attention to  the struggles of Guatemala’s indigenious populations. In many of her interviews, María Mercedes Coroy has been outspoken about the racism and machismo that Mayan women continue to endure. While the high rates of discrimination against indigenous peoples may seem disheartening to some, Coroy encourages her audience to continue the fight for equality and justice.

Recently, Coroy became the first Mayan woman to be featured on the cover of a prominent fashion magazine in Guatemala. Even though there is still some way to go until indigenous communities are fully respected, the visibility of indigenous women in the media can definitely be considered a step in the right direction. If it wasn’t for Coroy’s bravery and honesty about injustices, then who knows when the global community would be having this pressing conversation about indigenous rights.

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