VERACRUZ, Mexico — Edith Aguirre, a dance teacher and single mother of African descent, was crowned “Miss Colonia” in a pageant that celebrates the beauty and talent of women from the lower neighborhoods of the Gulf Coast port of Veracruz.
Fighting against the appearance standards developed over decades, the skin tone of the contestants in the Miss Cologne pageant is darker than what is usually seen on stage. Mexicoreflecting Veracruz’s long history of former slaves and escaped slave communities.
The contest was organized by the Factoria nightclub, and featured 32 participants who competed over nine weekends. All are from the poorest neighborhoods of the port city, which is in the state of Veracruz.
Radio host Eduardo “El Toper” Cureño explained how the call for participants of the show was announced.
“We made it clear when they signed – there was no weight limit, no height or color requirement,” Cureño said. “The only requirement was the neighborhood…we won’t accept people from gated communities, or apartment buildings. Factoria wanted it to be lower middle class.”
The contestants did the standard runway routine, but also showed off their talents, ranging from boxing and dancing to singing. They answered questions about controversial topics of the day.
According to the original plan, even the prizes will be of a different type – the winners will have to pay their electricity, energy and water bills. But sponsors have stepped up among local businesses to provide cash prizes, as well as a trip to Guadalajara and spa treatments to the winner.
Organized largely on social media to coincide with International Women’s Day, which is on Wednesday, the contest is also a way to highlight the state’s deep problem with violence against women.
The winners, Aguirre and Krishna Torres, impressed the judges with the breadth of their talent. Krishna demonstrated zumba and boxing exercise routines, while Aguirre mixed classical ballet with reggaeton.
They want to give up their communities: Aguirre offered to give free dance classes and free boxing lessons Torres to people in their neighborhoods.
“We are in a new era,” Aguirre said. “It’s not like before, with all thin women, all white. What’s important is what you have in you, the feelings, the talent and the charm.”