Service Learning Experience in Peru

During the spring break of my 2014 spring semester, I got the exciting chance to be part of the international service team at my school! Six other students and I made a trip to Peru with the goal of installing a solar electric system in Corpani Peñas, a village located high in the mountains of Peru with no access to electricity. After weeks of installation training and preparation, we were heading to South America, ready for the many adventures ahead!

1 Cross Hike

For most of the trip, we stayed in Urubamba, Peru. The city is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with magnificent, green mountains surrounding it. Here, we tried foods like lomo saltado, a tasty Peruvian dish with potato, beef, rice, and onions, and ceviche rich with seafood from the coast. We had the chance to hike up one of the nearby mountains on what is locally known as the “cross hike,” which consisted of trailing up a path overgrown with plants and shaky rocks until, at last, reaching the top, where a giant cross overlooks the entire town and surrounding valley. It was a view like nothing I had ever seen before!

2 Corpani4 Assembling Part of the Solar electric system

Installing the solar panels gave us the opportunity to stay a couple days in the village of Corpani Peñas. The people living in the village spoke in Quechua, with only a few individuals

knowing any Spanish. Quechua is an indigenous language, once the official language of the Incas, and now stands as the official language of Peru, in addition to Spanish. This was a language I had never heard of before, and was fascinated by hearing it spoken so much around me! On one of the nights spent here, we were treated by the head of the village to a special dinner where we were served cuy, a popular dish in Peru. Cuy, as odd as it may sound to us in the United States, is essentially cooked guinea pig! With hesitancy and curiosity, we gratefully ate the dish, which the village only prepares on special occasions. After a few cautious bites, the whole team was pleasantly surprised by the delicious meal.

The solar electric installation process was successful, despite there being several slight bumps in the road. It took the whole team and community members to brainstorm when materials failed to work, but teamwork and determination allowed us to pull through!

Following our stay there, we traveled to Ollantaytambo, a historic site of Incan ruins in another part of the Sacred Valley. Our guide told us the history behind some of the ruins, like how the giant terraces built along the side of the mountain were used for agriculture, and how some of the buildings were used as storehouses for food and seeds. Some of the structures, our guide shared with us, have archeologists and scientists still puzzled as to how the Incas were able to construct them, for example, walls built with massive, finely carved rocks all perfectly placed to fit like a puzzle, and packed together so closely, not even a pin can squeeze through! Viewing this historic site and hearing some of its history was incredible!

3 Ollantaytambo

5 Ollantaytambo

Our final stop of the trip, only a few hours before heading to the airport, was to the famous city of Cusco, once the capital city of the Incan Empire! Cusco is home to some amazing churches and buildings that were constructed after the Spanish conquest. We visited the Plaza de San Francisco, and made our way around the nearby market, where all sorts of clothing, jewelry, and foods were being sold. Knowing Spanish definitely came in handy here when bargaining for prices! What really caught my eye were the beautiful scarves being sold at one of the stands, stitched with vibrant colors and made from alpaca wool, a material commonly used in Peru.

At the conclusion of the trip, I boarded the plane back to the United States carrying so many great memories with me. From the food, to the breathtaking sights, to the welcoming people we met, this trip to Peru was full of new and exciting experiences that helped me learn about a culture and history I had never been exposed to before. Traveling is a perfect opportunity to open up your mind about the world, and if it’s something you’d like to do, too, a great way to do that is through programs at your school or in your community!

Quince Project

All in fairytale gowns and glamorous hair and makeup, Hope, Diana, Yareth, and Yeneira made their grand entrance into the Sand Dunes ballroom on August 21, 2014 to celebrate their Quinceañera as part of the Quince Project! The Quince Project is a charity program that works to put together a free Quinceañera celebration for girls selected in the El Paso, TX area who show strong leadership, academic, or volunteer experience, and who have overcome obstacles or financial hardships. Throughout the summer, the four girls were both involved in the organization of their quince, while also getting to learn more about their heritage and this traditional celebration.  The event relied heavily on donations, sponsors, and the help of a committee of Madrinas who volunteered to pull everything together. Madrinas and the girls received a great amount of support from the community!

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The morning began with hair and makeup for the girls at Tri-State Cosmetology Institute. Each girl got the star treatment and came out looking glamorous with their makeovers.

“I really loved getting our hair done, that felt really special,” Yeneira shared.

The girls then changed into their gowns, were dawned with princess-like tiaras, and had a photo shoot at the park before heading over to Sand Dunes hall.

“I felt nervous at the beginning of the day, but once we started practicing the dance and arrived at the hall, I got much less nervous. I started to get so excited and happy to see everyone here,” Diana recalls.

After a reception and dinner, the girls made their way for the grand entrance, accompanied in by family members. Next was the doll and shoe ceremony, followed by a fun dance set to the upbeat “Follow the Leader” by Jennifer Lopez, and slower waltz with loved ones. Hope, Yareth, and Yeneira all recalled the fun dance as their favorite part of the night, remembering that despite feeling that they messed up the choreography a bit, they improvised, and had great fun doing so!

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At the evening’s toast, in accordance with the butterfly as the symbol of the Latinitas organization, each girl was presented with a “set of wings,” recognizing each girl for her unique qualities and strengths.

“The best part of the night was when we did the cake ceremony and gave a toast, and got to thank everyone. Sarah gave us our wings, and I was very happy to hear her words. They were really meaningful. It almost made me cry, but I had to remember my makeup!” Diana laughs.

During this special moment during the celebration, Hope was awarded the wings of Confidence, Yareth received the wings of Cheerfulness, Yeneira was presented with the wings of Optimism, and Diana earned the wings of Courage.

“I felt just like a princess! It was just like I had pictured it,” Hope shared at the end of the night. A

fter a night full of dancing, great food, and memories, the girls reflected on their special day, and what it meant to them.

“This Quinceañera meant becoming a young woman, and getting to share that special moment with my family and friends,” Diana said.

As the night came to a close, each girl left with a few words of gratitude for all of those involved in the making of this memorable event.

“I would like to say thank you to everyone for making our dream possible. I enjoyed today so much,” Yareth shared.

“Thank you so much to everyone for your hard work,” said Hope.

“Thank you for making our day special, and for making it all possible. I hope it’s possible again for other girls like us next year!” Yeneira added.

Diana shared, “Thank you for making my dream come true, for helping me and the girls out through it all, and allowing us to share this important moment with our friends and family!”

As a young Latina, a Quinceañera marks a meaningful time in a girl’s life, and these four girls expressed such joy into being able to take part in this celebration.  This magical Quinceañera night proved to be a great success, thanks to the girls’ hard work, and to all the volunteer and community support aiding in the Quince Project!

Living on the Border

Laredo_Border_Crossing_25Living in a border city has perks unique to its citizens. Growing up in a city where Hispanic culture is the majority and the norm, makes for a very comfortable and connected life in the community. Ideas and traditions are generally accepted across the board because people have very similar backgrounds. Whereas speaking Spanish in another part of the country is an exceptionally valuable and marketable tool, it is just another part of living in a border city. The Spanish language is not an exception, but, almost like a form of currency, the more you know, the more you have access to the culture and the people that surround you. The border city examined in this article is Laredo, Texas. Located on the southwest border of Texas and Mexico, it houses one of the largest import sites in the nation. Visiting Mexico from Laredo is easy, just a fifteen minute drive down the highway and you have access to another country. Along with foreign goods, the Mexican culture transcends the border and infiltrates the city, and for this reason living in Laredo is truly a unique upbringing.

Leaving a Border City

Leaving the comfort of a city where most of your friends and peers have easily relatable backgrounds can be quite the experience. Trinity University student and Neuroscience major, Alyssa Izquierdo, shares what it is like to leave  Laredo and attend school in San Antonio, Texas. “Being right next to Mexico, you [notice] how easy it is for Mexicans to assimilate to Laredoan culture. It is a catholic majority… the culture is mexican, my family is all mexican,” she says. Establishing a circle of friends at Trinity University who vary in ethnicity and culture, she realized that speaking Spanish became an exceptional ability, one that she was grateful for. Surrounded by people taking Spanish language classes, she realized that the culture of her hometown was something not to be taken for granted.

Sharing Your Culture

On her thoughts about being an American of Mexican descent outside of Laredo: “I think living in a border city has helped me communicate better with the hispanic community- as in carrying a conversation with someone in Spanish. It has also helped me realize the opportunities that people have when they cross. I am grateful for having been born in the United States. [It] helps me see how lucky I am.”

Essentially, the culture that makes you unique is something to be cherished and never to be taken for granted. If you have the privilege of growing up surrounded by those with a familiar culture, take advantage of it, because it may not apply in other parts of the United States. On the flipside, embrace your culture in a diverse environment- you can start with showing off your mother’s wonderful enchilada recipe by sharing your home cooked meals with others.

Culture Shock

Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com

Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com

Have you ever moved to a different place? Have you ever gone somewhere new and felt like you do not belong? Have you ever had a feeling that everyone around you is different than you and that it  is something you cannot control? This is culture shock. Culture shock hits people in the most unexpected of ways.

You might be used to living in a place where everyone goes to football games every Friday night, and be shocked to move to a place where people go to more soccer games instead. Maybe you come from a place where there are Mexican restaurants around every corner, and be shocked to go somewhere where there are Asian food restaurants instead. And there is nothing wrong with all of this. However, it is ok if you find difficulty handling all of this. But facing these changes should not scare you.

Embrace the Change
Change is good. Moving to a new place is true learning experience where you do not only learn about a new culture but learn about yourself as well. Do not be afraid to throw all of yourself into this new place and everything it has to offer. Maira Zapata, a fourth year Latin American Studies student went through this experience. Coming from the Rio Grande Valley, she says everything she knew was “tacos in every corner.” When she got to college however, she met “all sorts of people.” According to Maira, meeting people from places all around the world was what encouraged her to study abroad in China during the 2013 Spring semester.

For example, if you are from an area where everyone goes to the island every weekend, do not be afraid to go to a country restaurant everyone goes to on the weekends and try line dancing, or singing country music. Trying new things will help reduce and possibly eliminate your culture shock. You should not be ashamed to have never been exposed to these news things. There will be different cultures within every city, state, and country you go to. That is what makes the world so interesting. Imagine if everyone liked the same things and did everything the same way. We would never accomplish anything! Life would be boring! Culture shock allows you to embrace new cultures.

While everything will be different at first, take it as an opportunity to learn something new. Reach out to new people or places throughout a city that you never pictures yourself visiting. If you find that your are vacationing or at traveling somewhere, ask questions! Your doubts will only leave you with more questions and more of a “shock.”

For myself, moving to a big city after living in a border town for years resulted in me having issues adjusting and facing tremendous culture shock. I was not used to seeing and interacting with people who did not know Spanish or did not look at me. Before I started college I had never traveled past Corpus Christi, Texas. I After starting college, I felt as if I was finally let out of the bubble I was living. Going off to college is already a shock in itself. But with patience, openness, and willingness to accept and do new things, the change in your surroundings will be a breeze.

Raised As One Of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Nina Santillan

Photo Credit: Nina Santillan

My mom began studying the Bible with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was two years old. My dad was not very inclined to it, but my mom was interested in the amount of knowledge they had in the Bible. She would teach me what she would learn—the basics, of course. As I grew older and into my toddler years, she would not expect me to apply everything she would teach me, but I knew she would be disappointed if I did not. I remember at first it seemed difficult, since my dad was not studying and was a Catholic, to please both of my parents. I loved what I was learning from my mom, though, because it made perfect sense to me even as young as I was.

As I grew into my elementary school years, the peer pressure to do what everyone else was doing, as far as holidays and misbehaving, were things that I was afraid to face. However, as I began to make friends and let them know about my religious beliefs and where I stand, they really came to respect it. They supported me even to the point of standing up for me when teachers or others would question why I would choose not to participate in holidays and saluting the flag. They would do all the work for me without even asking them to.

As high school came around, my dad finally started to gain interested in attending our theocratic meetings with my mom, my little sister, and me. He began to study with another brother on his own time and his interest began to grow. He began to apply what he learned to his own life and made it something that he really wanted to have a share in and make part of his life. He strongly holds the knowledge he has gained from the Bible and even enjoys sharing it with others no matter how difficult it may be sometimes — since many can be religious-sensitive.

Even to this day, my friends from elementary and also from middle school and high school still remember that I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They tell me that they have always admired my conduct and the strong stance I have kept throughout all these years. Maybe one day, someone will knock at their door and begin studying the Bible with them because of the witness I gave throughout the time I was in their lives.

Mi Barrio: Del Rio, TX

map_of_del_rio_txI moved to Del Rio when I was six years old. It is located on the border of Acuna, Coahuila, Mexico. I have so much family in this city, and, since I grew up here, I have so many memories here. It has a special place in my heart no matter how small of a city it is.

Since Del Rio is a border town, the majority of the population is Hispanic. It is not too small to where it is considered a town, but it is also not too appropriate to be considered a city as if it were a larger city like San Antonio. It is a city that is not very close to larger cities. The largest cities close to Del Rio are San Angelo and San Antonio which are about two and a half hours away. Upon arriving to Del Rio, there is basically only one main road which is Veterans Boulevard. From this road, one can access all the other important streets. It has most of the restaurants and other businesses that can be easily accessed. Pretty much everyone in Del Rio knows or is related to someone you know. It can be convenient sometimes, but other times it can get pretty annoying, especially when all you want to do is go to Wal-Mart in peace. There are also a lot of Mexican restaurants, as one would imagine. Oddly enough, there are a lot of banks here, too.

There are not too many places to shop here, though. Teenagers have more fun at Wal-Mart than at the Mall. But then this gives everyone an excuse to make a special trip to San Antonio to do some shopping. There is also only one high school and one middles school but several elementary schools. There is also an air force base on the outskirts of Del Rio, so there are quite a few of military people in town.

Del Rio is growing slowly, but surely. Just recently, the speed limit on Veterans was raised from 30 to 35 and 35 to 40 in their respected areas. Although some people still drive at the previous speed limits, many are beginning to adapt. They are also bringing a Starbucks in the Fall of 2014 and possibly other chain restaurants and stores in the near future. The growth is exciting and there is always something to look forward to in this city.

The “F” Word

Photo Credit: AAUW

Photo Credit: AAUW

Here’s what Latinitas writers had to say about their experience with feminism:

During my teen years, I remember reading articles and following groups who would protest against the injustice in the work force, or the repression on women having to stay at home rather than work, and I considered that I myself was a victim of it. I really disliked the differences between my brothers and I- like the curfews, the permission to date, the restrictions on what to wear, amongst other things. It humiliated me that someone would consider me weak, when I knew in my heart that I wasn’t. I spoke up, and never gave up a battle when talking about the differences between men and women at home.

Truth be told, what worked the most for me, was to separate my own thoughts and beliefs from that of my family. I began to understand that my concern over the misconceptions on women didn’t have to do much with me, as it had to about others. As I traveled to different places around the world, I came across with women who had gruesome and very difficult hardships. They were in desperate need for change. My heart began to soften, and I became grateful for the fortunes I had in life. I treated the issue of feminism with more desire to unify than to protest.” – Giselle Rosas

I’ve never really considered myself a feminist. But after really thinking about this question and examining my personal experiences growing up, I realized I kind of have had feminist ideals for a really long time.

Something that always angered me as a kid and still continues to do so now is the way my mother does EVERYTHING for my father. Sure, I should mention that my dad because handicapped last year restricting him to a wheelchair, but, even then, my mother does TOO MUCH for my father.  And to my father that is ok because my mother is the “woman” and should be “serving” her husband. 

I constantly get angry that my father asks my mother for EVERYTHING and she does it without thinking twice. I will never forget an occasion soon after where I told my mother how I felt.  We ended up having a heated argument and in the end she told me that by doing all she does, she is doing what she is SUPPOSED TO DO. And years later, I still don’t understand what she meant. Who is the person who sets up these guidelines? Why are women led to believe that they have to SERVE their husbands, boyfriends, brothers, cousins, ect. These stereotypes are NOT ok and they are sadly my experience with feminism. – Ingrid Vasquez

“Feminism has influenced my every day life and has changed the way I view everything. I’m more critical of the shows and movies I watch, the music I listen to, and the literature I read. Identifying as a feminist has given me a new outlook on life and I have to admit that it’s really a much happier one. 

Knowing that I’m a feminist and that I believe in equality for women has made me feel empowered. I really feel that I can do anything I set my mind to it and isn’t that just what everyone should feel? The media often portrays women as weak, defenseless victims who need someone to save them, but feminism has shown me that we can defend ourselves at all times. Feminism has also taught me to reject the other view of women that media portrays: the catty woman. Women don’t hate each other and they really shouldn’t. We’re up against men who think we’re not capable of everything men can do, and we should be supporting one another rather than turning our backs to each other.” – Cynthia Amaya

Through my adolescent experience, I paid no attention to feminism or identifying myself as a feminist. I had moments here and there where I’d talk with friends about double standards about sexuality, not nothing too in depth… It wasn’t until I was around 17/18 that I began to realize how wrong this was and that I shouldn’t let these misogynistic ideas control what I think. I started getting into riotgrrl bands and would think about girl empowerment. You would think that at an all girls school, I would gain a sense of sisterhood but most of the time I felt the opposite. I would think I was better than other girls because of the bands I liked or movies I watched. I realized that this was all wrong. The more articles and blogs I read, I began to finally identify as a feminist because I believed in their ideology. I began to notice all the casual misogyny in every day conversation and try my best to keep my cool.

Now that I’ve researched all the sub-types of feminism, I’ve realized there’s a lot of bad sides to feminism that I do not agree with. More than anything, I identify as an intersectional feminist. I believe we shouldn’t look at women as all one big sisterhood, but we need to realize the struggles of every women in every ethnicity.On a daily basis, I find it hard not to fight for feminism.” – Claudia Delfina

Mi Familia

Latina Girl Writing - LatinitasLatinitas hosted a blog-a-thon to celebrate Women’s History Month. Here’s what some of our writers had to say about the mujeres in their familia.

“[My mom is the person] I love the most in my life! She’s such an amazing woman; I’ve never seen anyone work harder than her. She’s the founder and director of a Spanish immersion preschool, and when I watch her work there I can’t help but get inspired to work hard as well. It makes me proud to be a Latina who takes part in teaching others about the colorful and amazing Hispanic culture. Working with her at the preschool is what made me realize how much I love working with others, especially children. And because of this I now want to become a child therapist. Gracias, mamá!” – Vanessa Aguirre, 14

“ Looking up into my abuela’s eyes, I saw her passion for cooking and serving her family, and keeping their house nice and tidy. She loves staying at home and performing her duties as a housewife. But, my abuela is apart of the last generation of Hispanic women who are having this role. Hispanic women today are businesswomen, lawyers, doctors, spokeswomen, and so much more. We are evolving to be the biggest and powerful women out there, Latinitas!

I used to think when I was younger, all Hispanic women knew how to do was cook, clean, and take care of the kids and the husband. But not anymore, Latinitas. We have an education now and we’re learning more and more and we will not stop! I am the first person (and female) in my family to go to college- receiving the highest education any of my family has ever gotten. I see how proud I make my family and how much I will be able to help them. But, the greatest thing of all, many young Latinas (like YOU) are receiving a wonderful education!

I am seeing us Hispanic women become stronger than ever. We want to make a difference in this world! We do not need to stick to the same stereotype that everyone believes: all that Latina women know how to do is cook and clean. Of course, we will always love to take care of our familias, but, that doesn’t mean we can’t contribute more to our world and make ourselves better women.

One thing I have learned as a Hispanic woman, Latinitas, is we are capable of doing more than we have ever imagined.  Let us prosperinto the beautiful Latina women that we are! Change is not a bad thing, Latinitas, including the change we are experiencing as Latina women. We have come such a far way, so lets continue to make our familias proud!” – Megan Garcia, 19

“I got my first job during my second year of college. Scared, I really didn’t know what I was getting into working at a call center. No one in my family had previous call center experience and that really intimidated me at first since I was really struggling. But my sister however, has always been an incredibly hard worker, working all the way through college. She worked as a hostess for 4 years and a lot of times had to study on the job. So when I would complain about speaking with someone who was rude or mean to me, I always pictured my sister in the back of my head. She was and continues to be one of my biggest family influences.” – Ingrid Vasquez, 19

 

The Changing Face of the Quinceañera

Photo Credit: Adriana Candelaria

Photo Credit: Adriana Candelaria

For non-Spanish speakers, quinceañera is a mouthful. For young Latina women, a quinceañera is a chance to publicly step into womanhood and reconnect to Latino culture.  For event planners, florist, bakers, and dress makers, quinceañeras translate into booming business.

“For as long as I can remember quinceañeras were something that I was infatuated with,” says 19-year-old Karla Estrada.  “I would dream of the perfect dress, the music, having all eyes on me.”

The growing industry in the United States around the quinceañera, or quince for short, shows the growing influence of the Latino population in the United States. But just like there is not one kind of Latino, there is not just one type of quinceañera.

Quintessential quinces

Popular quinceañera planning websites like quinceanera.com and quincehelp.com provide overviews of what a typical quinceañera ceremony looks like to help young girls and families plan the event.

According to quincehelp.com, the ceremony usually has two parts – the mass and the reception.  The mass is often called the Mass of Thanking and allows the young girl, also called the Quinceañera, to thank her family and demonstrate the role faith will play in her transition into maturity.

The reception takes place in a venue complete with themed decorations and a dance floor.  The reception begins with a grand entrance by the court which includes the Quinceañera, her chambelán or male date, 7 girls, and 7 boys.  The Quinceañera then dances with her father followed by court-performed choreographed dances.

Symbolic traditions that take place at the reception include the lighting of 15 candles, the slipper-high-heel-shoe-exchange, and the presentation of the last doll.  The slipper-shoe exchange and the presentation of the doll mark the end of the Quinceañera’s childhood.

Though these might be the more common quince traditions, as Estrada says “Every household and family is different, we all have our traditions that have been passed down for centuries.”

Tracing roots: quinceañera origins

Important to quinceañera traditions we see today is the history connecting the ceremony across nationalities.

“My sense is that rituals tell a people who they are,” says Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  “Scholars focus on both to historicize the how, the where, and the why of the quinceañera ritual.”

According to a 1997 article by scholar Karen Mary Dávalos, the quince is said to have originated as an indigenous practice, and more specifically, as an Aztec and Mayan tradition.  The ceremony is also said to have been a Spanish tradition passed onto present-day Latin America through colonialism.

Though some scholars place the creation of the quince in pre-colonial Mexico, Guidotti-Hernández, notes that “the coming of age ceremony be it the sweet 16 or the quinceañera for 15 year olds is not restricted to one ethnic group.”  She points out that “Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Central Americans also hold quinceñeras.”

Mapping traditions

Estrada, whose father is from Guatemala and mother is from Colombia, said she changed up a few traditions in her ceremony.

“Guatemalan tradition is that the Quinceañera wears white to show purity and honor,” says Estrada.  “I wore a light lilac color dress.”  Estrada also says that Guatemalan Quinceañeras are “expected to have a mass or church service 6 hours before the party to get approval of the transformation.”  Instead, Estrada had the service during her party.

Estrada also notes that her mother’s quinceañera in Colombia was less a ceremony and more a “small get together with family.”

Not only do traditions change, however slightly, from country to country.  Traditions also change through generation.

Rubi Reed, 14-years-old, said that she is still deciding on whether she will take a trip to celebrate her quinceañera or whether she will hold a typical ceremony.  Likewise, 18-year-old Gissel Ivanna decided not to have a quince because “I realized my stress level was going to increase and so was my mom’s.”

As Dávalos writes in her article, the Latinas she interviewed in the early 1990s were reluctant to rank quinceañera  ceremonies as “more-or-less traditional.” She attributes this discomfort with Latinas acknowledging the financial cost of extravagant quinces and their willingness to accept acceptance diversity in quinceañera ceremonies.

At the crossroads of time and place

“There is something about the U.S. context of the quinceañera that has made it distinct” says Guidotti-Hernández.  “What I am most interested in as a scholar is how the ritual has become more pan-ethnic and more embedded in consumption and excess in the last 30 years.”

Though the quinceañera ritual changes from Spanish-speaking country to Spanish-speaking country, it is perhaps making its biggest transformation in its U.S. context.  The accepted diversity within the centuries-old quince traditions signals an increasingly dynamic and multicultural U.S. Latina and Latino identity.

The Beauty Pageant Debate

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Many little girls dream of being princesses. Their games often consist of dressing up in their favorite Disney princess dress. For a few this beautiful dream becomes a reality. Since 1952, 63 women have become Miss Universe titleholders and over a third are Latinas.

Pretty gowns and bathing suits, a beauty pageant is much more than these elements. Miss Universe candidates are judged in multiple areas, which include: proper poise, body proportions, body mass index, parade, and interview responses. Many often forget the last element, affirming that beauty pageants degrade women by creating false images of average women. Believing a flawless face, beautiful hair and a toned body are necessary elements to be happy.

True, some beauty pageants are superficial. It appears in many cases that women are chosen based on their looks and figure instead of prizing intellectuality. An example of this case is former Miss Universe 1996, Alicia Machado. She made headlines when she gained too much weight during reign. In January of 1997, Donald Trump publicly humiliated her by forcing her to lose weight and to work out in front of hundreds of reporters and photographers. Had Machado not completed those requirements, she would have lost her crown.

Former Miss California competitor, Shanay Thompson mentions in her blog, “That night I didn’t place, but it did change me. I got obsessed with exercising and counting calories and dropped down to 118-122 pounds. I remember my sister showing a picture of what I looked like and I was disgusted. I looked sick. I knew as a public figure, I didn’t want young girls to follow this pattern and this wasn’t how I wanted to live my life.” Thompson believed she lost the crown due to her weight, but she realized that barely eating and obsessing over workouts was unhealthy.

Enough with the negativity; girls need to be inspired in a good way: eat right, do non-harmful exercises and have a drive for knowledge. Former Miss Universe 1997, Brooke Lee stated in an interview, “Miss Universe opened doors, windows, sunroofs, and chimneys! For a hula dancer / college student from Pearl City, Hawaii, winning completely changed my scope of the world. I traveled the world, met dignitaries, heads of states. I got to see things and go to places I would have never been able to dream of on my own in Hawaii.”

All in all, beauty pageants seem to ask women to match certain external attributes, but they also go beyond just looks. Women learn about different cultures, competition and many other aspects that prepare them for the professional field. Child beauty pageants; however, push young girls away from princess games. No young child should wear excessive make-up, fake lashes, provocative clothing, heels and inject botox. Every girl needs to live each stage of her life at an adequate pace while parents serve as a guide.

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