In the days that have passed since Sheynnis Palacios, 23, was crowned Miss Universe, the dimensions of her triumph have been spreading like ripples in a pond when an object falls into its waters. Today we know (at least those of us who for whatever reason didn’t know previously) who this girl is: her background, her sacrifices to get as far as she did, and her social commitment. It’s not strange that people have also chosen her for their queen, because the decision to be the people’s queen isn’t made by the monarchs, but by the people, who make her their own. That occurred with Princess Diana of Wales, and it’s occurring now with Sheyniss of Nicaragua.
If the case of this Nicaraguan girl were a movie script, it would be one more fairy tale, another overdone and saccharine story among the many that are brought to the screen to move people during the Christmas season. But no, even though it contains all the ingredients of the films that inspire enough tears to soften the popcorn, Sheyniss’ story is so real and credible that it shakes the ground under the feet of even the most steadfast blasphemers of beauty pageants, like the one writing this column.
Any way you look at it, Sheyniss Palacios is a daughter of our people. She meets all the requirements contemplated in the manual for losers: daughter of a single mother; a seriously humble household, sustained by the not-at-all stable income from the sale of buñuelos; a child of the lower-class neighborhood of La Fuente, between the Reparto Schick and the “Ivan Mercado” market in Managua’s eastern sector. And, to finish off the picture, forced to fill the vacuum left by a mother who, impelled by necessity, had to emigrate.
With these credentials, how could a people not celebrate the triumph of one of their own? Just as residents of La Fuente see it – the story of doña Raquel’s oldest daughter, the one from the “Guadalupana” shop, the same skinny little kid who grew up on their streets, the one who helped her mother and grandmother in the family business – it’s logical that the news should spread like wildfire that a girl like other thousands of girls in the neighborhoods had stretched out her fingertips and touched the sky.
This image, in which so many of those who fortune disinherited could see themselves, leapt over the artificial borders separating Central America’s blue and white provinces without many people realizing that such a phenomenon was happening. Without much mental effort, thousands of Central American men and women who, like Sheyniss, teetered (and still teeter) between despair and desperation, between migration and bowing before necessity, could all identify with her with intense feeling.
Those declaring that since November 18th Sheyniss Palacios has illuminated the hope that it’s possible to bolster a different future with day-to-day efforts to reach an objective, aren’t exaggerating. Nor are those who assert that nothing is written in stone, beyond the determination to seize the day, to harvest the best of each day, without losing sight of your goals. Nor do the voices exaggerate when they stress that the people who poured out onto the streets full of joy did so because our people – our peoples – desperately needed a piece of good news to celebrate (on a world level as well), as a way of cushioning a little the bad news that afflicts them every day.
And, as if this homegrown Cinderella story didn’t have enough ingredients, the villain also made an appearance. The most common villain in the fairy tales is personified by the stepmother or the witch, but since Sheyniss didn’t have a stepmother as a nemesis, if fell on [Rosario Murillo], the reigning political monarch, green with envy, to personify the other side of the coin, even though the title of Miss Universe is at the opposite end of the spectrum from politics, and in no way threatens the dictatorship.
It’s not that [as Murillo claimed in a speech] “destructive coup promotors” have taken advantage of the Managua girl’s victory to “muddy the blessed waters” of the Ortega regime. No. It’s that under any authoritarian regime, everything that occurs beyond the margins of the Autocrats permission is a political issue. The ambition to control everything that moves within the State and society is so excessive, that they can’t conceive how an event of such transcendence for the country could have escaped the control of the great Empress of our national life.
If we needed to seek some reason that this award should fill the country’s streets with joyful blue and white banners, that cause can be found in the belly of the dictatorship itself, in things like Decree 17-2021, prohibiting the bestowing of any [national or international] awards on Nicaraguans, unless they have been approved beforehand by the tyrants. Or in the repulsive campaigns against Sheyniss that the regime’s mercenaries unleashed before the pageant. Who, if not them, tried to smear political manure on Sheyniss road towards the top? Had she dressed in clothing designed by the dictators’ daughter, or if she had appeared in the finale sporting a red and black cape, a different rooster (than the decrepit ruler with his razored claw) would be crowing.
It’s impossible not to see rage and frustration in the moves that followed the coronation of Miss Universe: sending the highest-level watchman from Managua’s city hall to the home of the newly crowned queen; the tantrums of the potentate, and the banishment of the woman who directs Nicaragua’s Miss Universe franchise. Each such action oozes with the bile of impotence, the frenzied temper of an unbalanced woman.
It’s hard to foresee how long the “Sheyniss effect” might last among the people, or if her prolonged stay in New York will contribute to diluting it. What’s certain is that, at the moment, both inside and outside the country, Nicaragua shines with pride. And though for obvious reasons she can’t pronounce on political topics, over the next 12 months, it will be difficult to separate Sheyniss’ image from that of the young girl in the 2018 demonstrations, or the happy graduate of the UCA [Central American University], the university that the dictatorship has stolen.
Like it or not, she’s a queen of the people, with a pedigree that doesn’t include being born in a golden cradle, or enjoying the covert patronage of the tyrant. If the people have made Sheyniss’ triumph their own, it’s because she has come out of their same womb, although it pains the enemies of liberty and joy, the same joy that Mario Benedetti called on us to defend “like a banner (…) from lightning and melancholy, from the ingenuous and the scoundrels.”
This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.