Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Am I a masochist?" new Miss Puerto Rico Universe Asks

Yesterday international wire services ran the spectacular story from Puerto Rico - the top contender for the Miss Puerto Rico Universe title, 24 year old Ingrid Marie Rivera, was doused with pepper spray introduced into her clothes and make-up. Attack of hives and itching notwithstanding, Ingrid Marie rocked it. Without losing her professional compusure, she stepped up on stage, finished her desfile, ran backstage, applied ice to the affected areas to combat the attack, and took the win that will lead her to represent us in the Miss Universe pageant. This news coverage has allowed my friends and me to enjoy reading the typical Islander names mentioned in the coverage, note that the queen is called Ingrid Marie, the use of German, French and English names is prevalent, thus the PR rep for the police is called Stephen Alvarez, the agent in charge Erick Vazquez, the head of the pageant, Harold Rosario. Then we have what I would call the "creatively capitalist-inflected names" such as that of Miss Arecibo: Delorean Torres. Clearly, she was born in the mid-eighties, and her parents were car buffs.

At the press conference following her win, Miss PR Universe asked rhetorically "Am I a Masochist?" in true telenovela fashion. Today's Island papers breathlessly explain that a police investigation is underway since besides the attack on Ingrid Marie, there was a bomb threat called in. When I was a kid, the bomb threats were made by pro-Independence guerrillas or allegedly staged by Romero Barcelo's government to make the independentistas look guilty. It seems that now the struggle is to represent the Island on the international stage that is Miss Universe. El Nuevo Dia also boasted that the story has received international coverage. Last night, I saw this story run on both BBC America (following a story about Chavez's sham vote to turn Venezuela into a Socialist dictatorship) and then on Anderson Cooper 360. AC seemed fascinated by the story, like any self-respecting gay man, and underscored Ingrid Marie's sang froid. But I wondered: why is this the only time they talk about the Island over here? It's as if it doesn't exist. Intelligent and well-educated Americans - living in NY a city that has more Puerto Ricans than the Island itself - ask me if we have a Puerto Rican passport (ask artist Adal Maldonado, who cleverly invents his own), what currency we use, and other surreal questions. Countless people I speak to do not know that PR is a US colony. I see it appear sometimes in USAToday (the McDonald's of newspapers as an ex used to call it) beneath the states, as a "territory."

As the story below from Reuters notes, "Beauty competitions are important stuff in Puert Rico," noting that Islanders have the "autonomy" to send a Delegate to Miss Universe- but not however, to have voting representatives in Congress. Thus Islanders fighting in Irak did not have the right to vote for the President or Congressmen that sent them to die. Another little-known fact, imaginary American reader!

So, are we masochists? I ask myself, obsessing on our "win" in the international arena of Miss Universe, which temporarily distracts us from obsessing on the question of our status vis a vis the US? Staging plebiscite pageants with the contestants "Commonwealth" "Independence" or "Statehood" that are non-binding in the US government's eyes, and which indeed, are rarely even noted by the the US media. When we call ourselves "Estado Libre Asociado" - Free Associated State, but USA Today and the US government refers to us as a "territory." On BBC's "Globe Trekker" they refer to the Puerto Ricans living in NYC: "100 years ago, the US opened its borders to Puerto Ricans, granting them US citizenship." Nice shout out from one waning imperial colonizing power to another! As if the US suddenly decided to generously open its doors, when they took the Island by force and gave citizenship in 1917, just in time to get islanders to go to war as cannon fodder.

By the way, Miss Venezuela is our top competitor, they've won 4 times. But we've won 5 times (Marisol Malaret, 1970, Deborah Carthy-Deu, 1985, Dayanara Torres, 1993, Denise Quinones, 2001, and Zuleyka Rivera, 2006 )!!!

Puerto Rican wins beauty contest despite sabotage
Mon Nov 26, 2007 2:27pm EST
By John Marino

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - Someone doused her make-up and clothes with pepper spray, but Ingrid Marie Rivera put on a happy face and managed to win the beauty pageant that selected Puerto Rico's representative in the Miss Universe contest.

The 24-year-old from the town of Dorado was all smiles in front of the audience and judges during the competition, which ended on Friday when she beat 29 rivals. But backstage, she had to strip off her clothes and ice down her face and body to fight swelling and hives.

Pageant officials have vowed to get to the bottom of the attempted sabotage that tainted the pageant, an event that inspires passions in the U.S. Caribbean territory. Puerto Rico has produced five Miss Universe winners.

"It was a lot of sacrifice, and my tears were genuine," Rivera told reporters at a news conference on Sunday.

"At one point, I asked, 'Am I a masochist?' But I said regardless of the results, this is my goal. The more rocks there are in my path, the more thanks I will give to God for sustaining me."

Pageant organizers say they suspected a member of the team handling one of Rivera's competitors was responsible.

Magali Febles, director of the Miss Puerto Rico Universe Pageant, said the person behind the "vile act" was "from inside."

"I am going to investigate this until the final consequences. When we have everything, I will announce who the person is because someone with these instincts is capable of anything."

Organizers also said Rivera's bags, containing clothing and credit cards, were stolen, and that a bomb threat called in on Thursday forced the cancellation of some preliminary events. Police were investigating the bomb threat.

Beauty competitions are important stuff in Puerto Rico.

The ability to field a Miss Universe competitor from Puerto Rico, as well as Olympic sports teams, is a factor in the island's endless political debate, brought about by its status as a U.S. territory with aspects of a state and an independent country.

The events are widely watched, the winners are front page news and the local press is filled with speculation about favorites in the days prior to the competition.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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