Colonial Bodies at the Media Universal Stage: The Case of Puerto Rico’s Participation in Miss Universe

Manuel G Avilés-Santiago


Beauty pageants have occupied a prominent role in popular culture in Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean. In countries like Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela, pageants have become not only an opportunity for social mobility but also a space in which the complex layers of identity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and class, take center stage. In the case of Puerto Rico, a Commonwealth of the United States (U.S.) but also a bridge of the Americas, pageants have become a transnational display of cultural nationalism. With the highest number of international beauty queens per square mile, the island’s national pageant circuit has historically showcased values of Puerto Rico’s unique ethno-national identity. This article explores the figure of Miss Puerto Rico as a case study in how beauty queens, as a symbolic representation of an ethno-nation, have embodied the socio-political and cultural tensions that emerged from the complex colonial relation between Puerto Rico and the U.S. while presenting a unique case to understand nationalism in Latin American.


beauty pageants, Miss Puerto Rico, embodiment, colonialism

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Journal of Latin American Communication Research - 2014