Miss Panama advocates Indigenous Rights

For the first time in history an indigenous woman has been crowned Miss Panama. Miss Panama, Rosa Iveth Montezumafrom is from the community of Alto Caballero an area inhabited by the Ngobe Bugle tribe

Today Alto Caballero is marked by modern hydroelectric plants, a stark contrast to surrounding villages, where there is often no electricity. Half of the 150,000 inhabitants in the Ngobe Bugle region are living in extreme poverty.

Rosa Iveth Montezuma hopes to be the voice of these people. After being crowned in June she has been advocating for not just the rights of the Ngobe Bugle people, but all indigenous people.

Just one month after her coronation Montezuma attended the U.N. Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples. She also spoke during the organization’s International Indigenous Peoples’ Day and took her message to the Organization of American States in Washington.

"We continue to be considered inferior, uneducated, discriminated against entirely by society in general for our clothing and our essence," she said. When met with negative remarks about wearing traditional clothing to the U.N meeting, Montezuma pushed back defending her culture and her right to dress traditionally. 

Panama is home to Seven indigenous groups that make up 12 percent of the total population. 

This December Montezuma will travel to Thailand where she will represent Panama at the Miss Universe pageant. 

"This is so important to me," she said. Being Miss Panama "has been a platform for people to become aware that indigenous people are not just a group far from the city, and that they can achieve things."