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Gabby Taveras Is The First Afro-Latina Miss Massachusetts And She’s Highlighting The Problem Latinas Have In American Pageants

This past summer, little Black Latinas, like so many young girls have done before them, sat in front of their family television sets to watch the pageant circuits taking place across the United States. Only this time, the young girls watching witnessed history when a contestant, who looked and came from a background just like them, took home a major title. Gabriela Taveras, a contestant of Dominican, Haitian and Chinese descent took home the crown for Miss Massachusetts becoming the first Black women to win the title for the state.

Taveras became the first black woman to win the Miss Massachusetts title earlier this year.

In July, Taveras won the crown for the Miss Massachusetts pageant. This past Sunday she went onto compete in the 2019 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, NJ where she turned heads when she opted to introduce herself to judges and the audience watching while speaking in a Spanish accent. Taveras finished the competition as a fourth runner-up losing the ultimate title to Miss New York’s Nia Imani Franklin, also a Black pageant titleholder.

Recalling her experience as an Afro-Latina in the competition, Taveras highlighted the barriers and discrimination she faced as a Latina in the pageant. “For the competition, people didn’t want me to say my name with a Spanish accent in fear that it could weigh me down or make people feel uncomfortable,” she explained in an interview. “Unfortunately, we live in a society where if you are embracing your culture, people feel as though you’re not proud to be an American.”

Speaking about the hurdles Latinas must jump to secure a space for themselves in competitions, Taveras underlined the fact that today’s pageants might be willing to be exclusive to some extent but they fail to actively recruit minority contestants. “Traditionally, Miss America was exclusive to white women, and it wasn’t until 1971 when women of color [started] competing,” she explained before explaining that while the rule that limited the competition to women of the white race only was changed in the 40s it “didn’t necessarily mean that they were putting the local competitions in the areas that minorities existed.” For her first competitions, Taveras traveled 26 miles outside of her Latinx neighborhood of Lawrence, Massachusetts. When it came time to compete in other competitions she had to travel even farther.

Even despite Taveras’ loss on Sunday, it’s clear she’s come out a true winner and queen.

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Me: I'm about to cry @riveramakelawrencebetter : ME TOO! It was such an honor to be given the key to the city of #Lawrence, a place that I have always called home because of my commitment to #Service and #Empowering others. To my surprise I was also acknowledged by the @ushouseofrepresentatives ! ???????????? As if becoming #MissMassachusetts wasn't enough. I'm so fortunate to have the backing of an amazing state that commits itself to leading the way ❤️ Thank you God because I literally wouldn't be here without you and thank you to my State and Local Board Members, family, friends and future friends (strangers) who came to support me! #MissAmericaMA #MissAmerica #ThereSheServes #FEAR

A post shared by Gabby Taveras (@gabbytaveras) on

In interviews about her success, Taveras has often referred to herself as the Comeback Queen citing her life struggles battling sexual assault, homelessness, and abandonment. “Throughout my entire life I’d call myself the Comeback Queen because I faced so many adversities whether it be sexual assault or growing up with foster children [in] a single parent household, [having] an incarcerated father,” Taveras said in an interview about the long road that got her to becoming the first Black Miss Massachusetts. As a student at a Catholic high school, Taveras recieved an education on partial scholarship and worked as a custodian after classes to make ends meet. She’d hustle from class to wrestling practice and then to her job. On most nights, she’d only just begin to open her books for homework at 11:30 p.m. “I did it because I needed to pay for school.”

There’s no doubting Taveras has come a long way from her roots in Lawrence to a tiara-wearing pageant contestant.

Read: On September 11th, I Remember The First Time I Watched Fear Turn To Hate

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This Teen Just Became The First Indigenous Queen Of Mexico’s Nayarit Beauty Pageant


This Teen Just Became The First Indigenous Queen Of Mexico’s Nayarit Beauty Pageant

This year’s Nayarit State Fair will be historic. For the first time, the festivity, which takes place from March 7 to March 31 in the western Mexican state, will have an Indigenous woman as its queen.

Yukaima González, an 18-year-old college student from the Wixárika community in the mountainous municipality of Guadalupe Ocotán, won the beauty pageant of the Feria Nayarit.

González, who said she was inspired to compete after following the recent success of Yalitza Aparicio, an Oscar-nominated Indigenous woman who came to fame after starring in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” hopes her win will similarly empower her own community.

“In my community, we are losing our [indigenous] language, and residents are ashamed of wearing their traditional clothing. I’m here so that they’ll feel proud of our roots and who we are,” González, who studies physical education and sports at the Universidad Autónoma de Nayarit, told El Universal.

According to Mexico News Daily, she impressed the judges during the “traditional dress” round, where she donned a beaded ensemble that exhibited the Wixárika god’s eyes. Her proposed social project, which would provide support to Nayarit’s isolated mountain communities to open artisanal bakeries to support self-employment and community well-being, was also impactful.

In a post on Twitter, the barrier-breaking queen thanked those who were celebrating her win. “Gracias,” she wrote, sharing a photo of her crowned as the “Reina Feria Nayarit.”

@YukaimaG / Twitter

González was one of 15 contestants from each of Nayarit’s districts to compete, and she was one of two Indigenous contestants — a first for the fair. The second hopeful was Adriana Díaz López, a Cora indigenous woman from the municipality of Nayer.

(h/t Remezcla)

Read: Real-Life Domestic Workers Hope The Success Of ‘Roma’ Will Lead To Political And Cultural Change

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This Black History Month Celebrate The Legacy and Life Of Afro-Latina Reina Julia de Burgos

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This Black History Month Celebrate The Legacy and Life Of Afro-Latina Reina Julia de Burgos

Julia de Burgos is one of the most prominent Afro-Latina poets in modern history, and considered one of the most famous female poets from Puerto Rico. Her short, but prolific, life was defined by her innovative work, radical politics, volatile relationships, and personal struggles with depression and alcoholism. In honor of black history month, we give to your the story of Julia de Burgos, the Puerto Rican, Afro-Latina feminist poet who was ahead of her time.

“My childhood was all a poem in the river, and a river in the poem of my first dreams.”

Born Julia Constanza Burgos García in 1914 in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Julia de Burgos was the eldest of 13 siblings–six of whom died due to malnutrition. De Burgos was raised on a farm in extreme poverty, which influenced both her writings and her political outlook for the rest of her life.

While most female students in 1920s Puerto Rico weren’t expected to pursue higher education, the precocious and gifted de Burgos attended University High School in Rio Piedras on a full scholarship. She went on to receive a secondary education at the University of Puerto Rico, where she earned credentials to become a teacher in 1933.

“Hear the thousand laments of your children, of your soul, of your homeland demanding liberty.”

By the early 1930s, Julia de Burgos was already a published and critically acclaimed author, both as a journalist and as a poet. She released her first book of poems, “Poema en veinte surcos” (“Poem in Twenty Furrows”) in 1938. To promote the book of poems, de Burgos toured Puerto Rico,  giving readings and meeting fans. By this time, she was already deeply involved in the Puerto Rican Independence movement, serving as the Secretary General of the “Daughters of Freedom”.

“Don’t let the hand you hold hold you down.”

By the time she was 23, de Burgos was a published author, had been married, divorced, and found herself single once again. Instead of assuming the name of her ex-husband, as was conventional at the time, the feminist poet re-took her maiden name, changing it from its original iteration of “Burgos” to “de Burgos”. She did this in order to symbolically claim ownership of herself–a feat no man would ever truly be able to accomplish.

After her divorce, De Burgos embarked on a passionate love affair with Dominican physician Dr. Juan Isidro Jimenes Grullón, whom many historians recognize as the love of her life. Grullón was an intellectual from a respected family, and their relationship gained her further access into the Puerto Rican elite.

De Burgos and Grullón moved frequently as part of their nomadistic, Bohemian lifestyle. The couple spent a brief sojourn in Cuba and then moved to New York City, where de Burgos would spend the remainder of her life. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t stand the test of time, and de Burgos and Grullón had ended their relationship by 1942. She was left alone and practically penniless in New York City.

“I am life, I am strength, I am woman.”

It was in New York City that de Burgos truly solidified her status as a literary icon, particularly in the “Nuyorican” movement–the birth of the Puerto Rican/New York City blend of cultures that would help shape the Puerto Rican expatriate community for generations . In New York City, de Burgos took odd jobs to support herself while continuing to produce trailblazing poetry. She also contributed to the Spanish-language socialist paper, “Pueblos Hispanos”, eventually becoming an editor.

While in New York, de Burgos married and divorced once more, and the failed relationship launched her into both a depression and a battle with alcoholism that would follow her to the end of her days. During this time, one of her final poems was an English-language meditation on her lifelong struggle with poverty, entitled “Farewell in Welfare Island”.

In the end, despite her talent and promising career, de Burgos died from pneumonia at the age of 39 that many believe was spurred on by her alcoholism. Tragically, there was no one available at the hospital to identify de Burgos’ body, so she was buried in an unmarked grave. Eventually, her relatives discovered her grave and her remains were sent back to home, to her beloved island of Puerto Rico.

“I am black, pure black; kinky hair and Kaffir lips; and flat Mozambican nose.”

Despite achieving middling critical and commercial success during her lifetime, de Burgos found true success years after her death, when a new class of Latinx scholars and readers discovered her work. Her poems experienced a resurgence in popularity in the ’90s, when Caribbean and Latina writers, in particular, recognized her work for its themes of colonialism, feminism, American supremacy, colorism, poverty, and Latinx identity–subjects de Burgos explored far before they hit the mainstream.

Presently, in addition to her exploration of Latinx identity, de Burgos is recognized for her ownership and celebration of her Afro-Latina roots–a stance that was just as radical in the past as it is today. At a time when anti-black racism was just as widespread and insidious in Latinidad as it was in the US, de Burgos defied convention by fully claiming her black heritage, famously writing “Ay, ay, ay, I am black, pure black; kinky hair and Kaffir’s lips; and flat Mozambican nose.”

“She had many sins because she always lived in verse/ And what you do on earth, on earth you pay for.”

Today, de Burgos receives all of the praise and accolades that she wasn’t afforded in life. In both New York City and Puerto Rico, de Burgos has had scholls , parks, libraries, and streets named in her honor. Her likeness has appeared in murals and statues across the US and Puerto Rico, and her face has graced the front of a US postage stamp.

Julia de Burgos has taken not only her place as one of the rightful members of the Latinx literary cannon, but the broader US literary cannon in general. Because of her priceless contribution to art and culture, she is immortal.

READ: 21 Things You Didn’t Know About Celia Cruz, The Indisputable Queen Of Salsa

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