Afro-Mexican Pageant Queen Stands for Community’s Visibility, Shakes Up Country’s Beauty Standards

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Samantha Leyva (Instagram)
Samantha Leyva (Instagram)

Samantha Leyva is an Afro-Mexican pageant queen looking to improve the visibility of Mexico’s Black citizens. And although she looks different from the typical contestant, her ideals differ greatly, too.

A glance at her Facebook page reveals the following description, “Nurse by profession and proud Afro-Mexican. #BlackLivesMatter.”

In an interview with Fusion, Leyva shared she takes pride in flipping the usual beauty ideals of Mexico. The 23-year-old won the 2016 Miss Guerrero Pageant but placed third in the Miss Mexico Pageant.

Typically, pageant winners are light-skinned women, characterized by pale complexions and straighter hair, compared to Leyva’s deeper skin tone and dark locks.

“I think we have all grown accustomed to seeing another type of woman; another type of Mexican beauty,” Leyva told the website.

Across the nursing intern’s Spanish-language Instagram page, comments are overwhelmingly positive.

“I love your project on Afro-Mexicans!” one user wrote.

“Do not let anything or anyone take away your dream,” read another remark. “Do not listen to malicious and negative comments.”

That response came after some detractors made comments that dissed Leyva. One such comment deemed the beauty queen “not very feminine” looking.

Still, Leyva continues to proudly wear her Blackness. She advocated for Black Mexican rights in the state of Guerrero, where she is from. In September, Leyva helped improve education for children in her community. Then, at the end of October, Leyva attended the second annual Afro Festival, which celebrates the rich culture of Afro-Mexicans. Additionally, she supports Black Lives Matter, a movement Leyva said is “so important” to the global Black community.

Her efforts follow Mexico’s official recognition of their African descendant-citizens in last year’s census. The country’s 1.38 million people with African heritage were accounted for, changing the more than century-long tradition of not including Afro-Mexicans. Instead, the Latin American nation counted the “mestizaje” population – people with Spanish and indigenous ancestors.

Mexico is the only Latin American country besides Chile that banned African descendants from its charter. Because of that, Afro-Mexicans remained unseen. But thanks to the México Negro advocacy group, a push came to ensure the “Mexican state pays off its historical debt with Afro-Mexicans” by providing increased support to Black civilians, Atlanta Black Star reported.

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