An ‘American’ Won Miss Universe Puerto Rico and the Whole Puerto Rican Identity Things Got All Messy

Jun 17, 2019
5:33 PM

Last Thursday, thousands of Puerto Ricans tuned in to their televisions and favorite streaming sites to watch one of the island’s most coveted national pastimes: Miss Universe Puerto Rico. Candidates from 28 municipalities gathered at the Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan to decide who would be the next Miss Universe Puerto Rico (MUPR).

Alongside boxing events, national baseball finals, and election night, the Miss Universe competition is one of Puerto Rico’s most highly anticipated nights. Puerto Ricans are extremely proud of their five global queens, and although the MUPR night does not receive as much traction as the international competition, this one was one for the history books.

As always, the events of the show were widely documented on social media, from wardrobe malfunctions to Q&A blunders, Puerto Rican Twitter was not forgiving.

Fans were quick to choose favorites like Miss Loíza and Miss Morovis. But in the end, it was Miss Toa Baja, Madison Anderson Berríos, who took the crown and will represent Puerto Rico in the 2019 Miss Universe pageant set to take place later this year.

After Anderson Berríos was crowned, the uproar on social media was instant. People began to criticize her for her broken Spanish, her inability to properly answer questions, and singled out that she did not grow up on the island, therefore did not belong there.

The issue was that Madison Anderson Berríos was born in Arizona to an American father and a Puerto Rican mother. Her family later relocated to Orlando, Florida, where she was raised. Her father is a bondholder who brings investors to the Caribbean.

The hashtag #NoMeRepresenta started circulating around Twitter, and rumors that the competition had been rigged began to circulate.

Miss Universe Puerto Rico judge Alba Reyes (a former MUPR) responded to these rumors by saying that “such allegations are otherwise alien to the reality prior to the constitution of the jury and otherwise false in terms of the deliberative process of the jury.”

Others accused Anderson Berríos of participating in the pageant only because she failed to make it as Miss Florida USA 2019. This could be partially true. Anderson Berríos did in fact compete in the pageant, where she was first runner-up, but MUPR 2019 was not the first time she competed for Puerto Rico. In 2016, she won Miss Grand Puerto Rico, representing the island at Miss Grand International and placing as a third runner-up.

But the backlash didn’t start when Anderson Berríos won last week’s competition. Throughout the pageant, criticism outpoured, from the fact that she was an American taking the spot away from a “deserving Puerto Rican” to her broken Spanish in the Q&A segment.

It was in this particular moment that the Internet broke, when Anderson, who did not use an interpreter, asked the judge to repeat the question again because Spanish is not her first language, and then failed to answer the question. Not only was the mockery rampant online, but she was also booed by the audience at Bellas Artes.

In the days following her victory, dozens of op-eds and think pieces popped up on Puerto Rican news organizations, most defending her right to represent the Island, while others questioned her being in the competition. But some critics say it’s not about her accent or her heritage, but that she only ran to Puerto Rico after not making it in Florida.

People seem to have moved on, and the hashtag #NoMeRepresenta is now full of jokes and memes.

Anderson Berríos has remained mostly quiet about the backlash, focusing on improving her Spanish, working with domestic abuse survivors and waiting for the Miss Universe competition.

“Being Puerto Rican comes from the blood and from your heart. I feel proud to be the voice of Puerto Ricans outside of Puerto Rico,” she told Metro.

Former Miss Universe (2001) Denise Quiñones and director of MUPR thanked Anderson Berríos in an Instagram post for “reminding us all, what we already know… That PR is in the blood and in the heart and there is no one who really feels Boricua, that can impose a degree to our Puerto Ricanness.”

 

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Y así llegamos al comienzo de una nueva etapa. Estos meses han sido unos de mucho esfuerzo, de entrega, dedicacion y excelencia …de parte de todo el equipo @muniversepr y nuestras 28 Reinas! A todas mis nenas…saben que las quiero con mi alma y que como les dije, por siempre tendrán una hermana y amiga en mi. Desde el primer día q comenzaron esta aventura, sabíamos que teníamos un grupo extraordinario 💫 Cada una de ustedes son jóvenes de bien, de sueños y disciplina, de belleza externa e interna, mujeres que se atreven a perseguir sus sueños. Ya eso las hace ganadoras a todas! Nunca lo olviden ❤️ A ti @madisonandersonberrios ….la noche del jueves fuiste seleccionada como nuestra nueva Miss Universe PR 2019 y desde ese momento te abrazo y te doy la bienvenida a nuestra familia. Haz demostrado ya, en tan poco tiempo, que tu valentía, seguridad en ti misma, temple y fortaleza son capaz de conquistar el mundo. Se que, como hasta ahora, seguirás luchando y dando lo mejor de ti para hacer el mejor trabajo posible en Miss Universe 💫 Gracias por que nos recuerdas a todos, lo que todos sabemos… Que PR se lleva en la sangre y en el corazón y no hay quien se sienta realmente Boricua, que le pueda imponer un grado a nuestra puertorriqueñidad. Te quiero Reina y vamos hacia adelante, como las Reinas sabemos hacer 💪🏻❤️💫🇵🇷 Mil gracias a @stellanolasco por mi vestido @clarkivor por makeup @ildefonso45 por peinado y a @lidojewelers por mis accesorios 🙏🏼💫

A post shared by Denise Quiñones (@denisequinones9) on

On Sunday, the official Instagram account of Anderson Berríos’ team posted in Spanish about the pride she felt for the victory:

 

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Está bien… Dios siempre está en control. Hoy puedo sentarme a escribir estas líneas para ustedes ya con lo pies en la tierra, luego de dos días en las nubes viviendo mi sueño. Ya puedo mirar mi corona y mi cinta que dice Puerto Rico y realizar que todo esto es verdad y que podré gritar nuevamente el nombre de la patria que me enseñaron a amar desde niña ante el universo. Cada verano y navidades que pasé en esta tierra con mis abuelos y el resto de la familia, fueron aumentando el amor por mis raíces y hoy con orgullo puedo decir #SerBoricuaSeLlevaEnLaSangre y en el corazón. Nunca olvidaré el día que Peter Morales dijo: “ella será Miss Puerto Rico” a penas era una niña. Gracias por ayudarme años más tarde a descubrir el potencial en mí. Gracias por haber traído a mi vida @dianamcortes , no pudiste haberme puesto en mejores manos. Diana, nunca voy a cansarme de agradecerte todo lo que haces por tus hijas adoptivas, tu amor, labor y entrega hacia nosotras es incalculable. Más que una promotora, eres familia. Que el mundo sepa que como tú no hay dos. Cuidas cada detalle, nos proteges y nos pones en las manos de los mejores recursos y tu única recompensa es vernos felices y ayudar a otras chicas a cumplir sus sueños. Que Dios multiplique lo que haces por mi y por todas en salud, amor y bendiciones. Gracias a todo mi equipo de trabajo que se desvivieron en ayudarme a lucir bien en cada faceta. A Denisse Quiñones y toda la organización de @muniversepr GRACIAS. Gracias por darnos la oportunidad a 28 candidatas de aprender y adquirir herramientas que nos servirán para toda la vida. Gracias por diseñar una plataforma perfecta donde crecimos, no solo como candidatas, también como mejores seres humanos. Gracias Carmencita por cuidarnos a todas como lo haría una madre. Mensaje continúa en los comentarios. Gracias @tofervg por la hermosa fotografía que capturaste.

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Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed