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  • Writer's pictureLa Voz Latina

Finding the Strength of a Volcano: Miss Universe

Written by: Emely Gonzalez 🇸🇻

Sheynnis Palacios photo via (AP Moises Castillo)

When the winner for Miss Universe was announced, there was much celebration but there was also a question on what comes next?

Before we dive into the present, let’s recap on the past.

Miss Universe began as a marketing stunt when Miss America Yolanda Betbeze refused to wear a swimsuit by Catalina Swimwear.

The rebellious start of Miss Universe seemed to foreshadow future actions of the winning contestants.

Sheynnis Palacios, 23, winner of Miss Universe 2023, shaped a new view on what it meant to be a woman in the 21st century, specifically what it meant to keep the strength of a volcano.

As said by Michelle Fonseca, a Nicaraguan woman in her online blog,“this year’s Miss Universe, held in San Salvador on November 18, was more than a win for beauty. For many viewers, this was one of the few positive modern presentations of these cultures that didn’t centralize dictatorship, poverty or crime.”

Nicaragua has been under the control of Daniel Ortega since 2007, a member of the Sandinista party.

Since his rule, the United Nations had accused the current Nicaraguan government of committing crimes against humanity. In this press release from the United Nations, they highlight the fact that “the Nicaraguan population lives in fear of the actions that the Government itself may take against them.”

Through an article from NPR, Nicaraguan reporter Eyder Peralta, details his trip back to Nicaragua under a new regime. His first thought when crossing the Nicaraguan border from Honduras was, “ it feels like I've stepped back in time.”

Peralta describes his time as a reporter in Nicaragua and compares it to his time reporting in Cuba: “Nicaragua was the first country where I couldn't show up to a public space with a microphone.” 

As Peralta visited a church where an unknown assailant threw a Molotov cocktail in 2020, he tried talking to people about the incident, he was encountered with the real truth about the UN press release: “I told her I wanted to know what she was feeling. She just gave me a gentle smile." "I'm sorry, my son," she said. "We don't talk about those things to journalists here."

Peralta states how even the government issued a statement congratulating Palacios, but that didn't last. The government learned that Palacios had joined a protest as a college student in 2018. Quickly, Vice President Rosario Murillo switched tacts.

Palacios' victory was monumental for all Central American women, Fonseca said, “when Miss Nicaragua won Miss Universe this month, I cried for joy. I felt at last that my culture had gained recognition from people worldwide.”

Even Salvadoran President, Nayib Bukele, described last year's pageant as a win for all, a win of change in El Salvador, stating “Miss Universe has given us the opportunity to show the world what we are capable of.”

Down South 257 miles in Nicaragua, the government did not feel the same way as the director of Miss Universe Nicaragua was denied entry into her own country and then charged with sedition for, quote, "trying to turn beauty pageants into political ambushes."

Even for Miss Universe, Sheynnis Palacios is not even sure if she would be allowed to enter her own country again with Ortega in office.

Now with Palacios' target on her back from her own government it raises the question; what is next?

Like Palacios said when taking the crown “I carry the strength of a volcano in my being and I’m ready to take that crown to you.”

Creating history and change takes the strength of a volcano.

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