As any Puerto Rican worth her salt would, I watched the Miss Universe pageant that was held in Mexico City a couple of days ago. Miss Puerto Rico usually makes it through the first elimination round, at least, but this time everyone knew we wouldn't even make it that far. The girl just wasn't that cute or articulate, but another commonly-held opinion among Puerto Ricans was the she "didn't look Puerto Rican". That's something I'd like to address at a later point.
I watched this time around without being emotionally invested in the outcome, which I thought would be boring. Because - again - I am a Puerto Rican, and we all get into it way too much when our own Miss is movin' on up through the competition.
Also, I knew our Miss would be wearing a pirate's outfit for the "typical dress" part of the competition, and I didn't wanna miss that. Turns out, they only showed her from the chest up.
But this year's pageant turned out to be pretty exciting. Millions of eyes widened in horror (and, let's admit it, shocked amusement) when Miss USA Rachel Smith slipped and hit the floor butt-first. Poor girl. Terrible. But she got right back up, preened and smiled her way through the rest of the segment, and made it through to the next round of 10 semi-finalists. Miss Mexico made it through as well, to the crowd's jubilation. However, when the last 5 finalists were announced, including Miss USA, Mexico was not among them.
The crowd booed like crazy. When Miss USA went to answer her "world peace" question, she was booed mercilessly. It wasn't until she greeted Mexico in Spanish that the crowd suddenly applauded and cheered. Easy to please, apparently.
There are some theories as to why she was booed - discontent with the US's immigration policy and with the Iraq situation, mostly. And I'd say those played a factor in the several heckling incidents that Rachel Smith endured during her stay in Mexico. But the other theory, which strikes me as being more accurate in this particular scenario, is simply that Miss USA fell and still made it through, whereas Miss Mexico sashayed without incident and still didn't make it.
The booing incident has been mentioned in American news media, but not really given much thought. It's more of a sidenote to the main story of how this poor girl fell in her evening gown. I thought the booing was in dissapointingly poor taste, so I went off to look for other news sources to see what was being said. I checked out Puerto Rican newspapers Primera Hora and El Nuevo Día, where readers can comment on stories. Overwhelmingly, people were critical of the incident. Then I checked out Mexican newspapers La Reforma and El Universal. La Reforma only let me view headlines because I'm not a subscriber to their print edition, but among them was a quote from Miss Mexico saying that there had been favoritism. El Universal allowed me to read articles, and I found nary a mention of the booing. One article glossed over it, merely mentioning that it had happened and quoting Donald Trump as saying "They were booing our country's policies." Savvy, that one.
But here's the thing. Back in 1993, the pageant was also held in Mexico. Miss Mexico did not make it even through the first round. Miss Puerto Rico, Dayanara Torres, ended up winning the crown. The crowd threw objects - threw objects! - at the two Mexican ladies sitting in the judges' panel. They booed then, too, and then they accused Miss Puerto Rico of being underage and having falsified her papers. The Miss USA contestant that same year also got jeered and heckled. It must have been deja-vu all over again for Dayanara, as she was a judge at this year's pageant.
So I just have one question and one comment for the booers out there: "What the hell?" and "Calm the &^%$ down", respectively. And to the apologists among them - this kind of behavior goes a long way towards inflaming already smoldering tension between Mexicans and Americans. Are we to pretend that this tension doesn't exist? Are we to pretend that the tension is one-sided, and that it isn't sometimes exacerbated by both sides? Just as I'd assume that Americans are savvy enough to understand that not every Mexican individual condones such outright (and misplaced) hostility, I'd also like to assume that Mexicans understand the difference between a country's government and its people. Also, I'd like to assume that those who lose a competition don't throw accusations of favoritism without having something to back it up - otherwise, all you're saying is that you would have been the winner had it not been for all those people who are so clearly out to get you. Victim mentality does not suit a pretty beauty queen.
And who said Miss Universe is just a beauty pageant?