EL PEÑON, Panama – Achieving focused social changes within a space that allows women to share their wisdom, lead projects and safeguard values combined with the correct use of technology are some of the goals that Miss Panama 2018, Rosa Iveth Montezuma, is urging to create a path of equality.
This idealistic goal will be a bit difficult to achieve, yet the 25-year-old told EFE in an interview that she is confident it can be brought to fruition.
Montezuma, the first indigenous woman to be crowned Miss Panama, has a history of activism on behalf of her people, the Ngäbe Bugle.
“In recent years, women have managed to climb the social ladder and today they are able to hold important positions, but we are also walking libraries in the sense that we transmit our teachings, principles and values from one generation to another,” she said.
Born and raised in the Ngäbe Bugle Territory of western Panama, Montezuma recently had the bitter experience of having to deal with hate campaigns and social media discrimination, which she believes arose because she is an indigenous woman breaking the traditional beauty mold or model.
What caused her even “more pain and indignation” were accusations questioning her indigenous roots and claiming that her parents had European origins, which she was later able to disprove by corroborating her identity with Panama’s Electoral Tribunal.
“Technology is good if we know how to use it in our favor, and bad if we use it to harm others. Criticism will always be there, constructive criticism is taken for personal growth and destructive (criticism) is simply thrown out,” Montezuma said.
This “meri nuäre” (“beautiful woman” in the Ngäbe Bugle language) refused to rule out political aspirations over the longer term.
“We all have rights and opportunities, we just have to take advantage of them, but I would like to do more to maintain the customs and traditions of my indigenous people because without them we no longer exist,” she said.
Montezuma is now preparing to compete in the 67th edition of the Miss Universe pageant, to be held in Bangkok in December.
“I hope I can help people get to know our Panamanian people in the pageant, our customs and traditions, as well as being the voice of the five local territories and the world’s 370 million indigenous inhabitants, (so that we can be) included with opportunities and rights like any other citizen of the planet,” she said.