Thu, Apr 19, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Miss Mexico's pageant dress causes outrage

COSTUME DRAMA A dress designed for the Miss Universe contest decorated with images of hangings and a man facing a firing squad has unleashed a storm of protest


Miss Mexico, Rosa Maria Ojeda, poses with a floor-length dress, belted by bullets and accented by sketches of hangings during Mexico's Roman Catholic uprising in the 1920s, during a presentation in the city of Tampico, Mexico, in August last year.


Miss Mexico is redesigning her Miss Universe pageant dress -- not because it is too slinky or low-cut, but because it is too violent.

The floor-length dress, belted by bullets and accented by sketches of hangings during Mexico's Roman Catholic uprising in the 1920s, outraged Mexicans who said it was in poor taste and inappropriate for the world's most important beauty contest.

Critics said it glorified violence in a country where a battle between rival drug gangs has brought a wave of killings and beheadings.

Designers who helped select the dress from among 30 entries said they had wanted something that represented the nation's culture and history, especially since Mexico City is hosting the pageant next month.

"We wanted a dress that made you think of Mexico," said Hector Terrones, who served on the selection committee, to the leftist La Jornada newspaper.

But many Mexicans weren't happy about the dress.

Cut from a traditional, natural cotton called manta, the dress depicted 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.

The dress unleashed a storm of criticism. La Jornada carried close-ups of controversial images from the dress, including a man facing a firing squad.

"It's inappropriate to use images of this Cristero war that cost so many lives and was so pointless," said Guadalupe Loaeza, a contemporary Mexican writer.

Miss Mexico, Rosa Maria Ojeda, presented the dress on March 29, showing off the billowing, hoop skirt adorned with sketches of rebels hanging from posts. Rosaries and scapularies hung from her bullet-studded, bandolier belt. She completed the outfit with a huge crucifix necklace, a black halter top and a wide-brimmed sombrero.

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 released a statement late on Monday stating that the dress would be "modified" due to "the concerns that have surfaced regarding the design."

Pageant spokeswoman Esther Swan said the new skirt will have ribbons and ruffles -- but no images.

Mexican church officials also argued that using the war as a fashion statement was disrespectful to the thousands who died, some of whom were later named saints.

The conflict was the culmination of a century of bloody struggles over liberal attempts to slash the power of the church, which had been an arm of the Spanish colonial government for three centuries, owning vast tracts of land and savagely persecuting rival religions.

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