MEXICO CITY – Miss Mexico is toning down her Miss Universe pageant dress – not because it’s too slinky or low-cut, but because its bullet-studded belt and images of hangings from a 1920s uprising have outraged Mexicans.
The floor-length dress is accented with crosses, scapulars and a sketch of a man facing a firing squad. Designers who helped select the dress from among 30 entries argued it represented the nation’s culture and history, especially since Mexico City is hosting the pageant in May.
Cut from a traditional natural cotton called manta, the dress depicts scenes from the 1926-1929 Cristero war, an uprising by Roman Catholic rebels against Mexico’s secular government, which was imposing fiercely anti-clerical laws. Tens of thousands of people died.
“We wanted a dress that made you think of Mexico,” Hector Terrones, who served on the selection committee, told La Jornada newspaper. “The design should grab people’s attention and have impact without giving too much information.”
But many Mexicans weren’t happy about the history the dress evoked, especially at a moment of debate about the Catholic Church’s role in politics and its lobbying against a Mexico City proposal to legalize abortion. Others said it glorified violence in a country where a battle between drug gangs has brought a wave of killings and beheadings.
Miss Mexico, Rosa Maria Ojeda, presented the dress March 29, showing off the billowing, hoop skirt adorned with sketches of Catholic rebels hanging from posts. Rosaries and scapulars hung from the bullet-studded, bandolier belt; a large crucifix necklace, black halter top and wide-brimmed sombrero completed the outfit.
The gown’s designer, Maria del Rayo Macias, told La Jornada that “we are descendants of Cristeros. Whether we like it or not, it’s a part of who we are.” Macias is from Guadalajara, a city in what was the Cristero heartland.
La Jornada columnist Jorge Camil said a dress was not the place to recount the event.
“It would be like Miss USA wearing a dress showing images of the Ku Klux Klan in the deep South, with their hoods, their burning crosses and beer cans,” he wrote. “A beauty contest is very far from being the right place to vent political and religious ideologies.”
Ojeda’s representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment, but said in a statement the dress would be “modified” due to “the concerns that have surfaced regarding the design.” Pageant spokeswoman Esther Swan said the skirt would have ribbons and ruffles and no pattern, while the top would remain the same.