Bolivia's Worst Ambassador

Interested to see what you think of my post on this topic at my blog. For argument's sake, I tried looking at it from her side. And it is interesting that reactions to her statement totally depend on what side of the country people are from ...

Posted by miguel at May 28, 2004 01:26 PM

Well I think that even cruceños feel ashamed of what she said, her mother excused her and apologized for the incoveniences and if "somebody" was offended. I personally think that she lacks maturity and social sensibility, I feel sorry for all models and in particular for cruceña women since they've been fighting the last decade to erradicate the stereotype of the "dumb beauty", "dumb camba". Of course I must state that those stereotypes are false, despite Miss Bolivia's interview.

Posted by Daniel at May 28, 2004 03:12 PM

Oh, I definitely think she put her foot in her mouth. But I wonder if people are just a little to sensitive in these oh-so-politically-correct days. I think a simple "what a dumb thing to say" is appropriate; the massive media coverage w/ all these paceño politicians tripping over themselves to show they're more offended than the next politician's just a bit much.

Posted by miguel at May 28, 2004 05:06 PM

With that kind of reply, she surely proved that she is not an Indian,is tall, white, knows english, uneducated and very stupid (like the rest of the Bolivians).

Posted by Sam at May 29, 2004 03:05 PM

Dear Sam ,
I agree that Gabriela Oviedo showed her prejudice and made the big mistake of making generalizations about a whole culture, which shows her lack of education and sensitivity. What do you think people think about you when you generalize about people from Bolivia or any country? Think about it.

Posted by Karina at May 29, 2004 09:07 PM

Virtually no one intends to be racist. But what does it matter people's intentions if they perpetuate a racist system -- like beauty pageants.

Gabi only made the mistake of speaking what none of the judges would dare to say. But it should be clear from their selection that they believe "beauty" consists of European features. How many indigenous finalists do you see?

And, of course, the same newspapers and websites that criticize her are full of "beautiful" women, all of them with European features (sometimes with a small touch of something exotic).

Where did you learn what "beauty" is? Then ask yourself what race created these conceptions.

Posted by Skarrn at May 29, 2004 09:21 PM

let them enter a short Indian woman to represent Miss Bolivia, then.

Posted by Juan at May 30, 2004 11:05 AM

No one is saying that a Quechua woman should be Bolivia's representative. My point was that she used generalizations to unfairly characterize both people in the Orient and people in the Occident. She implied that it was shameful to be of an indigenous descent.

Posted by eduardo at May 30, 2004 02:20 PM

I'm proudly Kolla (from the western side of Bolivia) and I can speak English, besides, I'm studying for a Doctor Degree in Japan, so I think that maybe the "Ignorant" is her

Posted by Paceno at May 30, 2004 11:18 PM

Um. I think the point I (and my brother Sam) are trying to make isn't that she was right. She clearly was WRONG. She clearly put her foot in her mouth. Though Skarrn makes a good point, did she only speak the previously unspoken? Why can't a cholita be Miss Bolivia (or Peru, or Ecuador)?

But. Is Oviedo important enough to declare her officially a persona non grata in the national capital? For people to want to march and disrupt the city because of her faux pas? If President Mesa had said it, it'd be important. Or any other important political, powerful figure. But this was just a model. Does her political opinion really matter?

She was wrong. But the indignation by white paceños seems also wrong. Are they offended because she said they were indians? Are they offended because she didn't since the praises of La Paz? Are they offended because she answered the question in English? What are they offended about? Because it seems they're more offended by those trivial things, than by the potential racism in her statement. And THAT's what troubles me.

Posted by Miguel Centellas at May 31, 2004 01:23 PM

It seems she is against generalizations. She was responding to "What is a misconception about Bolivia?" by saying there is diversity in the country.
She was saying the generalizations are not true and that Bolivia has diversity.

Posted by Juan at May 31, 2004 03:45 PM

I agree, I certainly don't look to her to help guide my thoughts on race and cultural interactions. Unfortunately, in the society we live in, any public "celebrity" will receive much more attention than your run of the mill intelligent social scientist. I bet more people have visited the Miss Universe website than have visited our favorite political or social commentary webblog.

I certainly don't think it's worth to march on La Paz against her (are they really doing that?). Let's move on and think to more important things.

Posted by eduardo at May 31, 2004 04:18 PM

Like Gabriela Oviedo, I'm also from the "East side of Bolivia" and I know English, but I am neither tall nor white. Even in Santa Cruz, most people are dark and have Indian blood. It might not be Andinean blood, but Tupi-Guarani. The white are a few. Gabriela used an inapropiate way to express that Bolivia has diversity. Her statements were very selfish. She forgot she was representing Bolivia, not just the white in Santa Cruz or herself.

Posted by Yoli at May 31, 2004 05:41 PM

Her remark called my attention. I agree she made a mistake of verbalizing her thoughts. Generally people think South Americans are Indians or mestizos, just like those from Mexico. The fact that there is diversity may have been her intention but stated wrongly. And what's wrong being addressed as an Indian? Isn't that what they are or perhaps indigenous people?
I disagree with those who state that only European features are recognized during the pageant. Oriental and African women have been selected in previous times, haven't they?

Posted by A. Perales at June 2, 2004 12:51 AM

Is it really necessary to bash the girl? It may not have been the smoothest response, but it seems to me her intention was to describe the diversity of Bolivia. Maybe she just needs to expand her vocabulary (to include the word diversity), or practice answering random questions about her country in front of the mirror-before going on stage in front of the world. It's a lot of pressure-give her a break.

Posted by K. Brewer at June 2, 2004 11:29 AM

Before taking sides and defending her or the untold number of people offended by her remarks, we should stop for a minute and reflect in the fact that her words have major implications. Remember, Bolivia recently underwent profound and deadly social unrest caused by deep and long lived social problems among which are racism, inequality, poverty, corruption and extreme suffering. Saying she just mis-communicated is like saying there is no racism in the US because we have Condoleeza Rice sitting next to Bush in the white House. Let's not cover the sun with one finger. Yes, I agree, maybe the poor girl lacks descent communication skills, yes she could have used different ways to show the "diversity" in Bolivia. She could have easly said that Bolivia is a diverse country, a multicultural country of which she feels proud to represent. She could have used this opportunity to show the world that bolivia is rich in people, not only the indigenous people but rich in other cultures like the europeans who came later on during WWII, the ones who did not go there to rape them and sack their resources..

I also agree that she must've been nervous, English after all, is not her native language even though she proudly expressed she spoke it, but I have to remind people that there is a long and complex history behind this problem, it is not simple and it's not new, she just happened to run into by accident. And she is only a simptom. It may be a disaster for her, but I think it's about time some issues are brought out in the open:

1. racism is well and alive in Bolivia, it is a desease that has not been treated at all.

2. the organizers of these beauty peagants should better prepare their "ambassadors" instead of just training them on how to best show their behinds and making such fools of themselves..

3. the bolivians, specially the ones in the "other side" the "tall, white and english-speaking" ones should take a better look at how they treat their women, if they value education or looks,if they value intelligence or superficiality. It has been shown clearly that looks alone will not take you that far, just ask Gabriela Oviedo..

--just my opinion

Posted by J. Hurtado at June 2, 2004 06:49 PM

I agree with you Mr. J. Hurtado.
Although she is young, she is legally an adult woman so she had to be more careful about her expressions. It's a nonsence to argue that she couldn't express herself well because of the language, then why she was so proud that she could speak English...and as Mr, Hurtado wrote, while Bolivian Beauty Contest's Organizers just look at superficial beauty, these stereotiped "beautiful until she open her mouse" will be representing the nation. Actually I think these Organizers are an Inner Circle of Model Agencies with influence to powerful people, providing this beauties for them instead of some "dating services" so things are not going to change.

Posted by Paceno at June 3, 2004 02:27 AM

Sorry, mistype.
open her mouse -> X
open her mouth -> O

Posted by Paceno at June 3, 2004 02:33 AM

In my opinion, the remarks Ms. Bolivia made in that interview are, to say the least, careless and clearly, she did not think before she "misspoke".

However, they are representative of what every light-skinned Bolivian has in mind. Let's face it, Bolivian society has a long tradition of racism and exclusion agains native people. Ms. Oviedo only said out loud what other light-skinned Bolivians discuss in the intimacy of their private sphere.

A big part of Bolivian life, circles around this color division, between light-skinned and dark-skinned people. Unfortunately, the color of skin still predetermines social class, education, poverty, etc. in life.

Bolivians have to accept first the racist nature of society and then try to move beyond this cancer.

One last point. I have seen pictures of Miss Bolivia and I have to say, she does not look just European to me. She has a very strong copper color tan and some other indigenous characteristics, like the cheek bones. I am yet to see a European with these characteristics.

All I am trying to say, is that it is very likely that Ms. Oviedo could have some indigenous genes............being Bolivian. This would just confirm the fact that light-skinned people in Bolivia are obsessed with their whiteness.

Posted by Mike at June 3, 2004 04:50 AM

Three women, an Italian, a French and a camba (Gabriela Oviedo from Bolivia) went for a job
interview in England. Before the interview, they were told that they must compose a sentence in English with three main words: Green, pink, and yellow.

The Italian woman was first one: -"I wake up in the morning. I see the yellow sun. I see the green grass and I think to myself, I hope it will be a pink day."

The French woman was next: -"I wake up in the morning, eat a yellow banana, a green pepper and in the evening I watch the pink panther on tv."

Last was the camba from the east of Bolivia "tall and white woman" : she wrote, in her perfect english, because only the east people of Bolivia know english: "I wake up in the morning. I hear the phone "green ...... green.....". I "pink" up the phone and I say yellow"?????"

All kidding aside Mike hit the nail on the head. The entire society is obsessed with skin color. its relaly sad.

Posted by buzz at June 3, 2004 10:42 PM

I think she might have gotten away with it if she left out the part where she said she knows English rather than saying she's tall and white. It wasnt a blatant racist remark, she was honestly trying to express that Bolivia has diversity however she screwed up bad when she brought education into the mix cause then that became her addressing a social problem.

Posted by tyranodeberg at June 8, 2004 04:32 AM

She was clearly asked about one MISCONCEPTION ON BOLIVIANS. I think that there is a misconception -and racist- by people thinking that Bolivians should look in a way and not in another. I always have been told that "You do not look like a Bolivian citizen" inside and outside of my country and that is a racist comment in my opinion. I am Bolivian, proud of my citizenship and I do not think that Bolivians should look in a particular way. There IS really a misconception on that particular issue.

Also, I do not think that a contestant competing in a world pageant would be as stupid as to give a racist imagen of herself in front of the judges.

I do not forget that Gabriela is one of the best students of her University, one of the most prestigious of Bolivia. Even if she were truly racist, I think she would pretend not to be like that, -call it convenience or hypocresy-. That is why I give her the benefit of doubt on her comments and because English is tricky.

Racism exists in my country and is practiced by everybody. Some of the Indigenous leaders are the most racist of all, they pretend that only Bolivians from indigenous descend are the truly Bolivians. That really upsets me.

But everybody is guilty on Bolivia's racism. It is possible that beginners of racism are the badly called "elite" of my country. Their wealth and power only has served for nothing.

Posted by Daniela at June 14, 2004 09:15 PM

And I forgot to write that buzz's joke really offended me because:

1) It is chauvinist

2) It is really racist. "Cambas" are people from the west side of Bolivia.

Buzz, do not post that kind of jokes anymore please. They are really offensive against women and some people from my country, Bolivia.

(In this case you have seen a proof of how racist Bolivians can be )

Posted by Daniela at June 14, 2004 09:34 PM

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