Sucre takes Miss Venezuela

Miss Venezuela is more than just a beauty pageant. It is a long-held tradition and source of national pride that some give as much importance as Americans give the Super Bowl.

Miss Venezuela is more than just a beauty pageant. It is a long-held tradition and source of national pride that some give as much importance as Americans give the Super Bowl.
 Indeed, supporters at the five-hour 2005 competition on Thursday night were as revved up as any football fan. Every section of the Poliedro de Caracas crowd represented a competitor, with fans bringing props ranging from life-size cut outs of their girls to pompoms and raucous marching band instruments.
 In the end, it was Sucre state’s Jictzad Viña who was victoriously named Miss Venezuela 2005. Susan Carrizo, Miss Costa Oriental, came in a close second, with Misses Barinas, Nueva Esparta and Distrito Capital rounding off the top five. Viña walked away with a BMW Serie 1, valued at over Bs. 60 billion, and an insurance policy at Bs. 100 million.
 The girls showed their stuff in three rounds characterized by modern dress, swimwear and gowns. During the gown round, the competitors strutted across the stage in elegant dresses as ballroom dancers pranced next to Cinderella-style lampposts in the backdrop. Each stunningly-dress woman posed next to a grand piano, played delicately by two sisters even as the audience pounded bass drums. 
 The field of 28 girls was cut to 10 in the semifinal round, when the host asked each candidate one question picked out of a hat. Miss Costa Oriental’s fans exploded in reverence when she responded that “being authentic matters much more than anything else.” 
 Fans were not too pleased when President Hugo Chávez surfaced on the large TV screens next to the stage just as the show was gearing up for the final selection.
 Venevisión was obliged to show the president’s United Nations speech, broadcast as a nationwide cadena at 11 p.m. even though he had given the speech at 5 p.m. that afternoon. The show’s producers kept Chávez on mute as the crowd chanted “fuera,” or “get out.”
 Musician Franco De Vita’s set provided an unexpected comedic interlude when a rather intoxicated young man ran onstage, stole a microphone, jumped on De Vita’s piano and screamed, “I love you Anita. Everyone should know!”
 De Vita stopped playing and yelled “How wonderful!” At least five security guards surrounded the piano and at first only succeeded in pulling down the drunk man’s vest. Peace was restored when they finally carried the man down and whisked him off stage.
 During the bathing suit round, Miss Lara stopped in front of the crowd, gave a slight hip thrust and puckered her lips. Next, Miss Trujillo strut up to the end of the stage and blew a kiss to the crowd. Miss Guarico’s fans lit up the whole dome with extremely-bright fireworks when their girl appeared.
 Photographers and security guards alike repeatedly nudged one another to confer about which girl they liked best.
 More musical merriment came the crowd’s way when vocalists Frank Quintero, Voz Veis, Roque Valero, Manuel Dikez, y la Schola Cantorum de Caracas joined actresses Gaby Espino and Daniela Alvarado for the musical production of “Se Solicita Príncipe Azul,” based on the Venevisión soap opera of the same name. 
 As they sang, dramatic sequences from the telenovela flashed across the screens, including one scene of an actor blowing confetti giving way to a rustic portrayal of a solemn woman in a forest.
 The show also paid homage to Susana Duijm, who in 1955 became the first Latin American to win the Miss World competition.
 Vocalist Luis Silva serenaded Duijm as she and her family appeared on stage. “I salute everyone working for a better country,” Duijm said after the tribute.
 At one point, a choir numbering one hundred or so singers took the stage in what appeared to be nun outfits. One voice in the photographer section said, “I’m so confused.”
 As the game-show music took the show to a commercial break, some twenty men with mops took the stage to wipe up the debris left by previous acts. One mopper tripped and took a dramatic fall, laughed when the crowd cheered him on, and then got up to mop some more. 
 An entourage of tambores singers and dancers flooded the stage various times, chanting the names of the contestants. At one point, four women did acrobatic tricks, clinging to green cloths hanging from the tall domed ceiling. 
 And here’s for a little history: while choosing symbolic kings and queens for festivities is an ancient custom in Europe, the first modern beauty pageant was staged by P.T. Barnum in 1854. It was closed down due to public protest, says.

This is part of a series of re-published articles I wrote in 2005 for the Daily Journal in Caracas