People Are Pissed That a White Woman Won Colombia's SeÃ±orita Afrodescendiente Beauty Pageant
SeÃ±orita Afrodescendiente â" a beauty pageant held in Bogota, Colombia â" crowned its new queen last week. It should have been a joyous moment celebrating Blackness; instead, it sparked controversy because it once again shunned African features and beauty. Ana Paula Rueda â" a white Colombian woman â" took home the crown. The decision has raised plenty of eyebrows among the Afro-Latino community, especially in Colombia, and itâs also started conversations about beauty norms and the kind of spaces that truly belong to Black communities.
Ruedaâs win is especially shocking because Belky Arizala, one of the countryâs most prominent Afro-Colombian voices, organized the pageant. Ahead of the contest, Arizala spoke to El Universal after people became furious that Estefany Spath JimÃ©nez, a woman who identifies as Afro-Colombian but is white-pa ssing, was part of the contest. Belky explained that any woman of any ethnic group could participate and that all women are required to have knowledge on their region and record a video of themselves reciting Shirley Campbellâs Rotundamente negra.
âOne of the most controversial parts of the contest has been the name, which is related to people with black skin and Afro-textured hair, characteristics that represent this community,â she told the outlet. âNevertheless, the name of the pageant serves another purpose. I wanted to make people think; thatâs why I called it âafrodescendiente,â because thereâs still this idea in peopleâs heads that only those with dark skin and rucho hair belong to this community.â
And while itâs true that Blackness comes in many forms, this should have been a contest on Black Colombians. The beauty pageant world, in Latin America and the world as a whole, tends to favor white and light-skinned women. As a matter of fact, Miss Colombia has seen only two Black women crowned since the contestâs inception in 1934 and since the countryâs involvement in Miss Universe in 1958. Vanessa Alexandra Mendoza Bustos from Choco made history when she won the crown in 2001, and Jealisse Andrea Tovar VelÃ¡squez followed up with a win in 2015. The percentage of Black winners is not proportional to the Afro-Colombian population, which stands at approximately 10.62 percent. These contests sends a message to the world that there arenât any Black people in Colombia because the winners have, almost without exception, been anything but.
SeÃ±orita Afrodescendiente, as the title suggests, should have been different. It should have honored melanin, Afro-textured hair, and other features that you wonât find plastered on roadside ads. Instead, it further pushed the narrative that Black women arenât beautiful or good enough. Worse yet, itâs a slap in the face to Black people. It uses the words we use to describe ourselves and our culture to praise a non-Black woman who will never truly comprehend our struggles or what it means to be Black. Sheâll never live through the moments that Luis Cassiani Herazo, a Cartagena-based Afro-Colombian, has experienced.
âShe has not experiencedâ¦ going into a full bus to find people thinking that you may rob them, because sometimes and in some places Afrodescendants are stereotyped,â Luis tells me. âPeople think we are thieves and dangerous, and we may steal something from them. Thatâs not the way it is. Itâs somewhat difficult to try to get into a restaurant and be the last one to be served and taken into account. This [is] a contest for a misrepresented community, and we deserve to have the chance.â
While some may argue for opening up the pageant to people of all backgrounds, itâs hard to not be angered and defensive of our spaces when for centuries Colombia has treated its Black citizens as lesser than, when fai rness and equality arenât extended to us.
When I learned of this injustice, I posted about it on TheAfroLatinDiaspora, the Instagram account I started to uplift the Afro-Latino community. In more than 100 comments, people broke down the problematic nature of SeÃ±orita Afrodescendiente and who should get to call themselves Afro-Latinx. Barbara Vides, for example, wrote, âBullshit. Even as a light bright who still looks [more] Afro-Descendiente than her, I wouldnât dare insert myself into these things because I know my privilege. So imagine having the audacity to do this or stand up for this? No puedo. People need to give space to those who have been told for generations that their features arenât worthy or beautiful and stop hijacking these spaces.â
Similarly, there were plenty of white Latinos who used this as an opportunity to speak on their own privilege and explain why theyâd never enter a contest meant for Afro-Latinas. âI am not confused,â wrote Frances Joy Santiago. âIâm fair skinned and âethnically ambiguousâ with hair and features that are generally not the objects of discrimination. So I donât fucking enter beauty pageant that are specifically created for people who are constantly told that their features [arenât] beautiful.â
In all of this, itâs important to remember that Colombia is home to San Basilio de Palenque, the first free Black town in the Americas, founded in the 1600s. Yet, anti-Black racism and bigotry is still embedded into Colombiaâs culture. And as more examples like these arise, we need to keep them in mind because it was our ancestors who built these countries and contributed an immense amount to the foods, music, and traditions that comprise the Latino culture that so many live for.Source: Google News Colombia | Netizen 24 Colombia