Like the United States (and pretty much any other place on the planet), Venezuela is a country divided. Debate still lingers over who won the country's presidential election following the death of Hugo Chavez and they're dealing with a struggling economy. But also like the United States (and any other place on the planet), the people of Venezuela use entertainment as a means of putting aside their differences and coming together. In the U.S., we unite for Beyonce and Budweiser commercials where people shout "wassup?" at each other. In Venezuela, they unite for beauty pageants.
The Miss Venezuela pageant is typically the country's most watched television event and, according to the AP, it ties only with baseball in national popularity. While pageants have always been a large part of Venezuelan pop culture, the pageant industry has recently experienced an even bigger boom, with an entire industry of "grooming schools, plastic surgeons and beauty salons" popping up to support it. All their prep work seems to be working — Venezuela takes more titles in international beauty pageants than any other country.
Jorge Rueda at the AP writes that pageants effectively bridge the country's political gap:
"It doesn't matter if you're Chavista or a government opponent, this is one sin we all share," Jose Luiz Martinez, a 21-year-old college student, said yesterday in downtown Caracas.
As if to prove that point, Maria Eugenia Enriquez, wearing a red shirt stamped with the piercing gaze of the late Chavez, said she never misses the festivities.
"I'm a revolutionary but I like to watch the show with my entire family," said Enriquez.
"Miss Venezuela is as much ours as the arepa," she said, referring to the corn cake that's an emblematic part of the country's diet.
Over two-thirds of the national viewing audience was expected to tune into last night's Miss Venezuela pageant, where 18-year-old political science and communications major Migbelis Castellanos took the crown in a stadium filled with 15,000 people.
Image via AP.