Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pageants and Contests

Current readers, possible readers, late-night readers, early-morning readers, ladies, gentlemen, respected teachers, honorable director, kind judges on the panel, children, teenagers, contest participants, students, for everyone in the audience, Good Afternoon.

When we first arrived back in August, Ian and I were judges for a kids’ singing contest here in town. I worked all day with the kids making the set, a mix of colorful and tacky flowers, which was a huge hit. To start off the night we pumped up the music full blast and danced merengue with the audience members. The event went until one in the morning, when we finally and slowly announced our verdicts. Needless to say, the audience was not happy with our decisions and thus we created quite a buzz around town. We had a blast, though, and it was amazing to see the courage and talent of these kids.

This past week there were daily celebrations for Independence Day, which falls on September 15th, and every community had its own beauty pageant, one for the teenagers and one for the little girls. I was asked to do the sashes for San Pablo, which I labored over for three days and did not enjoy at all. The girls in the pageants, though, labor over their outfits and details of the event for weeks. While sexist and ridiculous, the pageants are very popular with the men and women alike; I’ve never seen so many people come out for an event!

They first come out in traditional indigenous clothes from all over the country; some tote water jugs, others a lit candle with which they make the sign of the cross from their knees, usually right in front of the judges. Then they show off sports wear. Many use this as an opportunity to come out in a bikini, pretending to know how to swim or play volleyball. Here in the freezing cold mountains it’s quite a sight and the crowd goes wild. The only other sports we’ve seen are weight-lifting and rhythmic gymnastics (read: cheerleading), which are sad. Lastly they come out in a formal gown and the announcers tell us about their favorite colors and lifetime dreams. Most hope to graduate college, and some want to be doctors or engineers. This is my favorite part, where the possibilities are endless and I actually feel like the event is adding to their confidence and development as an individual, where they are striving to be beautiful and intelligent women.

Then, though, they make a speech about violence and peace, about the need to develop and better the country. The little girls recite words they’ve never heard before and with the teenagers, too, it’s obvious they have no idea what they’re saying. After the girls are crowned little boys in white shirts and bowties come one by one to take them away, bowing to the public and holding the hand of their lady.


At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully done!

Love, Paul

At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How wonderful! Congrats on the woman of the year! Promise to write soon. Love, Grandmommie


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