Los Angeles, March 25 (IANS) When the starting gun sounded for the Los Angeles Marathon, Maria del Carmen Tun Cho felt like a winner already by becoming the first Guatemalan Maya woman ever to participate in one of the most important US sports events.
“For me, participating is already a victory because I have been able to show that a woman can do many things if she sets her mind to them,” said Tun Cho before competing in the 34th edition of the Los Angeles Marathon here on Sunday.
She finished the 26-mile race in 4 hours and 47:22 minutes, crossing the finish line in 6,919th place overall and 1,905th place among the women, according to the official race results, reports Efe news.
Dressed in a colourful typical Maya outfit and wearing a pair of “chaites” (Maya sandals), Tun Cho began the race convinced that her crusade to open doors for women was already bearing fruit.
Hundreds of her fellow Guatemalan women, along with other nationalities, approached the indigenous athlete to support her participation and applaud her efforts.
With more than 24,000 athletes from all US states and more than 60 countries, the marathon was the perfect platform for Tun Cho, a member of the Q’eqchi community, to ensure that her message was heard, she said.
“We women have a lot to give, regardless of our age or race or whether we’re from the country or the city,” she said in Spanish, apologising for her limited knowledge of that language.
The mother of six began training three years ago, participating in the Ak’ Wank race, a competition held in Guatemala with the aim of supporting women’s rights.
After taking first place in the Master category of that competition in 2018, Tun Cho knew that she had to take the message of “empowering women” to the greatest audience possible and right away did so abroad when she competed in the Basque Country Marathon in Spain last year.
Los Angeles activists like Teofilo Barrientos and Otto Barrios, among others, decided to support Tun Cho so that she could bring her message to their city, where a large number of Guatemalans live.
Guatemalans comprise the third-largest immigrant community in the US, after Mexicans and Salvadorans.
“We always have to keep in mind that we women have the same rights as men and must be treated equally. We have to make an effort to achieve this equality,” Tun Cho said.