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The idea to organize a pageant for Latin women in the US on a
national level developed simultaneously with the international
Miss Latin America® Pageant, best known worldwide as
"MISS AMERICA LATINA® DEL MUNDO."
For the first time Latin women were to be showcased in a program that would recognize their personal
attributes beyond their physical beauty and be awarded university scholarships as prizes. Although this
was not a new concept in the United States, in the world of beauty pageants in Latin America it was unique.
For the Latin woman in the U.S., this program represented a chance to compete in a non-traditional
pageant that would welcome their identification with their Hispanic ancestry and finally award them the
opportunity to win on their own merits, without regard to their ethnicity.
Miss California Latina 1983
|Elvira Castro of Florida and
Cira Sanchez of Texas
In 1983 the states with major Hispanic populations were extended the opportunity to select their
own candidates to the Miss Latin America Pageant, in recognition of the more than twenty million
Hispanics calculated then to be residing in the U.S. (Now it is more than 55 million.)
Preliminary pageants were held and the first five state delegates from Arizona, California, Florida,
Nevada and Texas traveled to the Miss Latin America Pageant in Miami, Florida, official founding
site of this unique international scholarship pageant system, to compete alongside delegates
from eleven Latin American countries. Remarkably, four of them placed among the ten
Semifinalists that year.
The quality of these young women was comparable to that of the
national delegates vying for the international crown and for three
years while this project was developing, state directors sent their
delegates to the Miss Latin America Pageant in Miami, where they
consistently achieved high standings in the competition.
Texas sent Cuban-born Cira Sanchez from El Paso in 1983 and
she was chosen Second Runner-Up. Also from Cuba was the 1984
Florida representative Yolanda Fernandez of Clearwater, who won
First Runner-Up honors from among a total of 29 state and national
|As Pageant Show Host, Venezuelan telenovela star
Carlos Olivier interviews Florida’s Sylvia Hernandez
(center) and Victoria Mauriz of the Dominican
Republic before they are chosen First Runner-Up
and Miss Latin America 1985,respectively, at the
Guzman Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
COSTA RICA 1986
When the Miss Latin America Pageant is invited to Costa Rica
in 1986, the U.S. state delegates also travel to the Central
American site. For the first time they participate in their own
separate competition in San Jose to select the one U.S.
Hispanic national representative to the International Pageant.
This marked the official separation of the state delegates from
the international competition into their own National Pageant to
select “Miss U.S. Latina” each year.
Sandra Luz Cedillos of El Paso, Texas is
elected the first Miss U.S. Latina in 1986.
First Runner-Up Yolanda Fernandez
of Florida with Miss Latin America 1984
winner Mirla Ochoa of Venezuela and
Mayor John Sherman of Bal Harbour
Nationally syndicated TV Show Host
and Pageant Emcee Rolando Barral
conducts onstage interview of Finalist
Cira Sanchez from Texas at the 1983
Miss Latin America Pageant in Miami.
Jose Luis Rodriguez
“El Puma” with
Castro of Florida at
Miami coctail honoring
Miss Latin America '83.
The Traveling Begins....
Florida’s Sylvia Hernandez with guest singer
Braulio and Miss Latin America 1984 Mirla Ochoa
in Miami at the 1985 Miss Latin America Pageant.
Repeating the honor for Florida the following year was Sylvia
Hernandez, originally from Uruguay. Arizona’s Lourdes Guevara
from Tucson, of Mexican descent, was also chosen one of the five
finalists at the 1985 Miss Latin America Pageant in Miami.
The Costa Rican experience is enjoyed once again in Santa
Cruz, Bolivia, site of the second National Pageant for U.S.
Hispanic women along with the 1987 Miss Latin America Event.
Also televised live nationally, the results are nevertheless
carried over for announcement during the International Finals
telecast. To the delight and pride of the host country, the winner
had been born in Cochabamba, Bolivia of a Bolivian mother
and Yugoslavian father.
Mexican singer Jose Roberto hosts the
first Miss U.S. Latina Pageant in 1986
and interviews Marlene Perez onstage
prior to naming her First Runner-Up.
|Miss U.S. Latina 1987 Sdenka Dobronic (left) joins
a group photo with Chayanne, guest singer at the
1987 Miss Latin America Pageant in Bolivia.
Mexico gives a grand welcome to the 1989 Miss U.S. Latina Pageant as part of the Miss Latin America Event.
Due to Mexico’s Presidential Inauguration in 1988, that year’s Event ended up being postponed a few months into
The competition is televised live from the Port of Guaymas and again no results are announced. The First Lady of
the State of Sonora, assisted by the First Lady of the capital Hermosillo, crowned the winner during the spectacular
international telecast of the Miss Latin America 1989 Pageant. This would become the last time the coronation of
Miss U.S. Latina would be held over to the International Finals as was done since 1986.
Miss U.S. Latina1989 Hany Valdes and Latin film and television
idol Andres Garcia at the Miss Florida Latina 1990 Pageant in Miami.
Hany Valdes, Miss Latin America 1989
Suzanne Hannaux and the new Miss
Florida Latina 1989 Sandra Peebles.
Miss U.S. Latina1989 Hany Valdes
presenting goodwill gift to Mayor
Alvaro Arzu in Guatemala City.
Hany Valdes and Hollywood film star
Edward James Olmos are special
guests at the 1989 Miami Grand Prix.
The decade of the 90’s was characterized by the addition of social consciousness to the Miss Latin America
Event. What the 80’s sought to promote with emphasis on scholarships was expanded to include fundraising
for charities, as traveling to the different Latin American countries raised awareness to this greater social
need. This concept was actually introduced with the 1989 Event in Mexico that raised funds for the local Red
Cross and D.I.F., which provides support to needy families. For many U.S. delegates, visiting hospitals,
orphanages, and other institutions for the poor as part of their pageant activities was a profound experience
that contributed to their personal growth and enlightenment.
Carola Garfias meets
El Salvador President
Alfredo Cristiani during
the 1990 Event activities.
EL SALVADOR 1990
Hosting the 1990 Event was home to the then reigning Miss
Latin America 1989 and the small Central American nation of
El Salvador distinguished itself with a very singular production
of the 1990 Miss U.S. Latina Pageant.
Televised throughout the country from the Teatro Presidente in
San Salvador, the program featured the Marines Honor Guard
from the US Embassy as escorts for the evening gown
Additionally, the First Brigade Band of the Army of El Salvador
Miss U.S. Latina Carola Garfias with
American Ambassador William Walker
and US Marines in San Salvador
performed for the colorful and exciting “Parade of the Americas” that opened the show with the entrance of all
of the state and national delegates in native dress, followed by military cadets bearing the flags from their
Highlighting this historic evening was the placing of the official titleholder’s sash on the winner from Arizona by
US Ambassador William Walker.
Dominican star Angela
Carrasco (top right), and
Carola Garfias in San
ARGENTINA - 1991
The Fifth Annual Miss U.S. Latina Pageant is produced in Buenos Aires, Argentina,
simultaneously with the election of Miss Latina Argentina 1991 – the first time in the
world that two national pageants are held together on the same stage. Delegates in
the 10th Miss Latin America Pageant opened the program with the now traditional
“Parade of the Americas”.
Mayor Carlos Grosso of Buenos
Aires greets Pageant Delegates in
1991. Miss U.S. Latina 1991 (left)
Yvette Gonzalez waits her turn.
First bi-national pageant in the world – Miss U.S.
Latina and Argentina 1991 in Buenos Aires, where
New York’s Yvette Gonzalez (right) won the US title.
The Ministry of Tourism of Argentina and
the City of Buenos Aires declaring the
Event of “National Interest” and “Municipal
Interest”, respectively, issued special
decrees. Delegates rode vintage carriages
in a special parade through downtown
The 1992 Miss Latin America Pageant is held in the Port City of Guayaquil, Ecuador. For the first time
a charitable organization heads the Host Committee and they are unable to include an additional
Florida’s Dailin Garcia
with First Runner-up Iris
Almario of New York
onstage after coronation
in Guatemala City.
Guatemala repeats as host site for the VII Miss U.S. Latina
Pageant in 1994. Once again two national pageants are
teamed up as occurred in Argentina, but for the first time
separately from the International Event that originated the
concept. The Guatemalan audience is enthralled with the
production that resulted in the elections of Miss Latina
Guatemala and Miss U.S. Latina 1994 to participate in the
XIII Miss Latin America Pageant in Ecuador later that year.
The success of the 1994 Event in Guatemala combining two
national pageants prompted organizers to plan for staging it
there again in 1995 on a permanent basis. Conditions there
did not allow for this to happen and, regrettably, after several
postponements the venture was abandoned.
Miss U.S. Latina 1994
Joanne Morales of Florida
crowned Diana Otero Miss
Florida Latina 1995.
With the cancellation of the 1995 Pageant, and while a study of how to conduct subsequent Miss U.S.
Latina Pageants was being done, US delegates were still being selected to participate in the
international Pageant through a review process conducted by the Miss Latin America Organization.
The first titleholder thus selected was first runner-up to Miss U.S. Latina 1993, who got the honor in
1996 and traveled to Lima, Peru as the official US delegate to the 1996 Miss Latin America Pageant.
USA's Iris Almario (2nd from right) at
press reception for 1996 Miss Latin
America Pageant in Lima, Peru.
Miss U.S. Latina1993 Dailin Garcia
(right) meeting Vice President
Arturo Herbruger, who was thrilled
to officially receive the 1993
Pageant Delegates at the
Presidential Palace of Guatemala.
The 1997 Miss Latin America Pageant was
postponed to early 1998, so no US delegate was
chosen that year, although state directors
continued to conduct their own qualifying pageants.
EL SALVADOR 1998
The Miss Latin America Organization chose the
accomplished “Miss Cuban American 1997” to
represent the national title in the summer of 1998
in Costa del Sol, El Salvador.
The following year, the honor passed to Brown
University Scholarship Recipient and “Miss Rhode
Island Latina 1999”, who traveled to Guatemala in
November of 1999 to compete for the title of “Miss
Latin America 2000”.
Miss U.S. Latina 1998 Kathryn Rodriguez
(center), listens to Mayor Hector Silva read
the Municipal Proclamation declaring each
delegate at the 1998 Miss Latin America
Pageant a “Distinguished Visitor” of the City
of San Salvador.
USA's Dilania Inoa with
the Miss Latin America
2000 Pageant delegates.
Miss U.S. Latina 1986
Cira Sanchez visits
Cerezo during goodwill
trip to Gutamala in 1987.
Ecuador’s President Sixto Duran Ballen
welcomes the 1992 Miss Latin America
Pageant delegates to Quito, including Miss
U.S. Latina 1992 Carla Morales at right.
pageant in their budget, as was the tradition of this
Event. In support of their fundraising efforts on
behalf of hospitals for orphans, the Pageant
Organization agreed to postpone the US National
Pageant that year. Instead, a delegate was chosen
from among the state pageants that had already held
their that year. Instead, a delegate was chosen from
among the state pageants that had already held their
contests and Rhode Island’s winner became the sixth
state delegate honored with the Miss U.S. Latina
representation. Delegates were flown to the capital to
meet the President and also the Mayor of Quito prior
to the Final Event at the Teatro Centro Civico in
Guatemala is host in 1993 to the Miss U.S. Latina Pageant and enthusiastically welcomes the 15 state
delegates vying that year for the opportunity to join the select group of international delegates aspiring
for the title of Miss Latin America 1993, who were being hosted along with them by this Central
American nation. A fashion show by the delegates of the Latin American countries was featured in the
US Pageant, additionally to the colorful “Parade of the Americas” that, once again, opened the evening’s
performance that culminated with the coronation of Florida’s delegate as Miss U.S. Latina 1993.