A few days ago, a beauty pageant held in Bogota, Colombia called Señorita Afrodescediente crowned their winner. According to Remezcla, the mission behind the pageant is to honor and celebrate blackness within the Colombian community. But folks are furious that this year’s winner is Ana Paula Rueda, a Colombian woman who many consider white-passing” or “white-presenting.”
The pageants organizer, Belky Arizala,, received a ton of criticism for allowing Estefany Spath Jiménez, a woman who identifies as Afro-Colombian but is perceive by some as “white-passing,” to compete in the pageant.
“One 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,” Arizala told El Universal. “Nevertheless, the name of the pageant serves another purpose. I wanted to make people think; that’s why I called it ‘afrodescendiente,’ because there’s still this idea in people’s heads that only those with dark skin and rucho hair belong to this community.”
Here’s the thing, I absolutely understand what Arizala is trying to say, and as a Latina who identifies as Afro-Latina myself and am often told I’m not dark enough or just don’t look “black enough” to identify as an Afro-Latina, I understand the importance of folks being educated on the fact that you do not need to look like Amara La Negra to be Afro-Latina. Being a Latina of afro-descent doesn’t make you limited to a certain skin tone, specific facial features or kinky, curly hair. It simply means you have African ancestry and embracing and recognizing that part of yourself is important.
With that said, I do think this was a missed opportunity to have celebrated an Afro-Latina with darker skin and more textured hair in a country where whiteness is still perceived as a beauty ideal. Colombia especially tends to praise white beauty and often times ignores or puts down indigenous and black beauty, despite the fact that so many Colombians actually have black and indigenous roots. Having a pageant called Señorita Afrodescediente who’s aim is to celebrate blackness within the community was an opportunity to crown a woman who’s beauty is not often celebrated and rejoiced in society.
“White beauty has been considered the ideal in Colombia, Latin American and basically the entire world for centuries. This is nothing new. If you’re going to even put a pageant like this together, use it to celebrate Latinas with deeper skin tones, textured hair, and facial features that until this day are NOT celebrated enough—especially in Latin America. Come on Señorita Afrodescediente, you could have done better than this.