Beauty Pageants in Today’s Cuba

Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES, April 20 — A beauty pageant is a competition based mainly — though not always — on the physical attractiveness of its participants. These may also feature other qualities possessed by the contestants, usually those talents having to do with dancing, singing, acting or modeling.

Such competitions are organized in most parts of the world, with the most prestigious being the Miss Universe pageant, which recently announced that it will accept the participation of transsexuals.

While we should recognize the childishness of these events, it’s also worth mentioning that more than one young woman with physical endowments has benefited from these by earning enough prize money to change their lives and those of their families.

From these contests come opportunities for contracting with television companies or firms for making commercials or even for becoming TV actresses or hosts.

In pre-revolutionary Cuba, these functions were widely practiced and some attractive women changed their fates as a result of them.

After 1959, these events gradually disappeared. The government eliminated what it called such bourgeoisie remnants that had nothing to do with the new type of society that it was beginning to build.

Therefore, Cuban women put aside their cosmetics, clothes hangers and runways to climb the mountains to participate in the literacy campaign, to go to school, work in the fields and learn to take up arms alongside their men to defend the country against any enemy aggression.

Entire generations grew up unaware of the broadcasting of those competitions. However in recent years, younger people and even some older people (and why not?) have got back into following these contests and now spend much of their time discussing the types of beauty and styles of the various contestants in these shows.

Weekly, and almost obsessively, programs from “Belleza Latina” (Latin Beauty) from “Univision TV” are downloaded from the Internet and sold or rented by clandestine dealers. Like an epidemic, on the street one can now hear expressions like:

“Do you have the latest Belleza Latina?”

“Did the Cuban girl get eliminated?”

“I liked the Puerto Rican chick better.”

This is due to several factors:

Firstly, there’s the pervasive trend whereby all things foreign are seen as good by our youth and much of the population, who are saturated with and tired of the same old revolutionary slogans.

Second, we have this disastrous national television programming that satisfies almost no one and makes nearly everyone prefer anything else.

And lastly, the broadcasting of those other shows and programs is prohibited in our country.

Although trivial, the fact is that “Belleza Latina” has high audience ratings in Cuba, either for simple distraction (for the flamboyance of their upscale productions, so in contrast to our television productions), or because there’s nothing better to do to ease the monotony of daily life.

Although they contribute little to their lives, many Cubans find entertainment in these shows, which has caused the numbers of fans to skyrocket – right here, where these programs and their objectives are the most censored.

But that’s the way things are. As the new maxim goes: “For those who don’t want block-party soup, there’s always “Belleza Latina.”


Dariela Aquique

Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.