Nicaraguan model Sheynnis Palacios has become a symbol of an oppressed people.
By Katelyn Livorse
Sheynnis Palacios, native-born Nicaraguan and winner of the 2023 Miss Universe Pageant, looked stunning in her blue and white dress as she accepted her crown. So stunning, in fact, that her tyrannical government now views her as the vital link in an uprising against her native land.
Ms. Palacios quickly became a ray of hope to the Nicaraguan people. When news reached Nicaragua of her coronation, people took to the streets. They waved the Nicaraguan flag, instead of the partisan Sandinista flag. They chanted her name instead of Nicaragua’s resident dictator, Daniel Ortega. Nicaraguan artists began painting a mural of her began to be painted in Estelí, one of the largest cities in the nation. They even began to liken her, due to her blue and white dress, to the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (the Virgin Mary), Nicaragua’s patron saint.
As the first winner from Nicaragua, the government originally praised Ms. Palacios and her victory. Their tune almost immediately changed. The waving of flags and chanting in the streets were all well and good, but it was quickly becoming clear that Palacios had transformed into a national symbol.
A largely Catholic country, the likening of Ms. Palacios to the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception was perceived as a serious threat and her actions as pushback against the country’s crackdown on the Catholic Church. In the past year alone, several lay people and clergy members have been arrested. Some have been exiled, others wallow in prison, and still others have been executed, one having been burned alive.
The situation may still have been salvageable for Nicaragua’s Sandinista regime until it became clear that Ms. Palacios herself had actively opposed the government. Prior to her coronation, Ms. Palacios studied at the Central American University in the capital city of Managua. In 2018, the same year the government outlawed political protests, they shut down the Jesuit university due to its (supposed) situation as a “center of terrorism.”
Soon after, pictures surfaced of her striking figure at the protests organized by students at this university. Many people even recalled seeing her there. Her involvement may have quickly changed the government’s tune towards her victory, but it also served to solidify her place in the people’s hearts.
The model had become a symbol of hope for an oppressed people.
While it seems that Palacios has been left largely untouched by the Nicaraguan government, save the fact that she has not been allowed to return, so far, other than the fear she is undoubtedly feeling, the national director of the Miss Universe Pageant in Nicaragua has been charged with treason and arrested along with her entire family. At the time of writing, no further information is known about their fate.
Ms. Palacios, like Katniss Everdeen from the bestselling series The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, has been unwittingly thrust into a position in which she must choose if she will use her influence to help her people and free her nation. Her coronation has come to represent so much more than an individual triumph: she has become a symbol of freedom.
Why Does It Matter?
So, why care? What consequence does the little country of Nicaragua have in our big, important, busy American lives where we live freely and untouched by the cares of the world? Well, perhaps none. No matter how much we marvel at the hope Ms. Palacios has given her people, most will walk away shaking their heads. They’ll never think—and never have to think—about her and her people again.
Maybe you watched the Hunger Games and wondered what you would do if you were Katniss and had to fight for your own District 12. But you’re forgetting that there’s one that exists today. A girl who didn’t want to be used this way. But a girl who, nevertheless, became a beacon of hope for her people and a prime target for the Nicaraguan government.
A Symbol of Hope
We may be preoccupied now. But, when we are old and look back on our lives, we will have to confront the moments when we made choices. Ms. Palacios will see the hope she gave her people. Perhaps she will see results from that hope. When we look back on this moment, we will see one of two things: Action, or inaction.
Humanity is under attack once again. Dignity is being torn away and stomped on. And yet, fire is catching. Shouldn’t we take notice?
About the Author
Katelyn Livorse is a sophomore political science and French double major at Grove City College. She is a style editor of the Journal of Law and Public Policy and has written for the college newspaper. Katelyn is also a member of the AEI Executive Council at Grove City College. She holds the position of principal trombonist in the college orchestra.
In 2022, Katelyn became involved in translations of French documents into English, particularly those written during the occupation of France during the Second World War. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in international relations. When she isn’t writing or studying, Katelyn spends her time drinking too much coffee while enjoying a good book.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the writer alone. They do not necessarily reflect the official position of Grove City College, the Institute for Faith and Freedom, or their affiliates.