*Corona = Crown
After 8 hours of smiles, presentations, stuffing our faces with El Salvador finest corn based treats and a mild case of heat stroke; I was officially crowned of the Festival de Maiz! The day was long, the stakes were high, there were 30 other candidatas but overall it was a fantastic experience, a way to further integrate into Salvadoran culture and connect more with my community. Overall $8,000 was raised, and the construction of the youth center will begin in the next few months. While the “glamour” of being queen is what drove my competitive spirit, the reason we were all there was much more important than a bedazzled sash and a fantastic photo op (but those things didn’t hurt). To everyone that helped me raise all the funds through your generous donations, THANK YOU SO MUCH! This youth center will be built with the support of both Salvadoran and Americans, and help to lessen the influence of drugs and gang activity in the pueblo of Sesori. I fully support that extra curricular actives help to keep kids on the right track, and in a country where the influence of the maras is everywhere; I couldn’t be more of a champion for this cause.
- Preparation for the big day
My equipo de belleza or my beauty team worked tirelessely for a week prepapring our looks for the festival. Now, the past candidatas from my community have been young children, whose tiny dresses and pantsuits require a days worth of work. This year the 6-foot gringa and her equally giant escort presented quite a challenge for the ladies of San Nicolas. They worked for a full week putting together accessories, decorating my skirt and Mario’s outfit. They hand glued/sewed hundreds of pieces of corn onto everything, joking and singing as they worked. Two nights before the pageant I worked with them for 5 hours putting the final touches on every thing while they planned out my hair and make-up. Without these girls none of this would have been possible, and Mario and I would have looked like total amateurs
Nexy adding the final touches to Mario’s pants
Look at that detail, I was so lucky to have my little design team!
- La Festival
Our day started with a 5:30am wake up call, which no one was happy about. Sandra showed up at my house ready to make me over and to do my host sisters, the 2013 Queen, hair and make-up. Since my campo look is a high bun and no make-up everyone was so excited to see what I looked like when I put on make-up and straightened my hair. The day did have it’s lows, I was upset to realize how much a brunette I have become. After my host mom and Sandra approved our looks we piled into the car to head to the pueblo, unaware that our carriages (cattle carts) were waiting. Now, as a tall white girl in El Salvador I have grown accustom to the constant stares and whispers, but I was naïve to how much more attention the tall white girl in a traditional dress made of corn would attract. The fact that we had a good foot on all of the other pairs didn’t help either.
The Serrano-Canas-Lampi-Lima-Castro clan
Selfie with my beautiful host sister/Queen of 2013
Two stylish hombres
The parade kicked off with the high school band leading all of the candidatas and their escorts down the main street of the pueblo. We all had to ride in little carts pulled by cows on a poorly paved street as we threw candies to the on lookers. The ride, which was terrifying since every bump we hit made the cart feel like it was going to fall apart, drug on for a painful 30 minutes because the whole procession would halt every time someone took the microphone. Mario and I were able to find the humor in the situation, and feign smiles as we tossed dulces to the crowd.
Queen Estefany on her special carriage
Once we finally made it to center of the pueblo it was time for our first official presentation as candidata and escort to our adoring fans.
The rest of the day was spent socializing, eating, avoiding the sun and enjoying the local high school band. In order to build suspense each of the candidatas were given an envelope which we used to pass along the money we raised. My host family told me the trick was to give $5 the first round, $10 the second round and then during the last collection put in the rest of the money. The point of this is to keep the competition fair, since no one knows how much money the competition raised. The downside of this system is that it adds an extra 3 hours onto an already long day, because the judges have to count and recount all the money they are handed.
The high school band playing all the hits-including Rolling in the Deep
Mario and the lovely ladies of San Nicolas
Nexy showing off her craftsmanship. All those little corns were individually colored and attached
Posing with fellow candidatas
And then it was time, the moment we had been waiting all day for, they were FINALLY going to announce who had secured enough votes to take home the crown. All afternoon we had been hearing rumors that someone else had raised $1,300, which sent us into a panic. Things weren’t looking good for the San Nicoals team, and when my host dad came over and gave me an awkward speech about being ok with losing and saying congratulations to the winner, we figured it was clear that this American was coming in second. The head judge proceeded to call up the top 3, the girls who had raised the most money, and Mario and I went up to the stage. I was ready to come in second, there was no way I was going to win, but then, to all of our surprise, the announced the Reina was ME!! I had to look back at Mario to confirm, was I hearing things, was I translating what this women just said correctly, had all the chambre been a trick to scare me? The crowd errupted into cheers, the Father of the Catholic Church escorted me to my throne (a plastic chair) and the crown was placed on my head. I was in shock.
All hail the Queen
Thinking to myself “it this real, am I really a Salvadoran Queen?”
I’ll take it from here Father
The first family of Sesori
The King and Queen of the Corn, and the best dressed PCV’s in all the land
Posing with the winner of the Best Dress competition
Posing for pictures with the fans
After the festival ended we piled into my community guides car and headed back to San Nicolas where a grand celebration was waiting for us. Instead of napping and watching movies with some wine, we were treated to a night full of karaoke with all of my favorite community members and my host family. That night I realized this day was not just special for me, but for all of the people that have become my friends and family in site. From start to finish they had a blast supporting me and celebrating with their new American friends!
Emily and the San Nicolas crew belting out the hits
The last photo of the night, everyone tired out from a long day and night!