She finished sixth in a field of 14, according to results released Monday, with just 3 percent of the vote. The two front-runners, Álvaro Colom and Otto Pérez Molina, will compete in a runoff on Nov. 4.
Why Ms. Menchú fared so poorly is as complex as the Mayans themselves.
She was not from around here. That was obvious to anyone who scrutinized the details of the embroidery on the traditional Mayan clothes she wore to campaign. She is a Quiche Mayan, from the midwestern highlands. Her indigenous language is different, unintelligible to a local Tz’utujil speaker. Nineteen other Mayan groups live in Guatemala, each linguistically distinct. Because of the rivalries and conflicts among Mayans, Ms. Menchú had to win over Mayan voters just like any other outsider.
“She’s one of us, but she’s not,” explained a Tz’utujil Mayan who voted for someone else.
She also entered the race without a social organization as a base and was considered a lackluster campaigner and an uninspired speaker.
Furthermore, many older Mayan men are traditional when it comes to women. “Lots of men don’t want a woman to boss them around, and especially a woman president,” said Delores Ratzan, a Tz’utujil Mayan tour guide here. “They think it will ruin the country, and they tell their wives that.”