Miss Nuevo Laredo shakes off criticism of living in Laredo ahead of Miss Tamaulipas pageant

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A Laredoan who was born in Mexico will be representing Los Dos Laredos as she competes at Miss Tamaulipas next week.

Alma Gonzalez De La Cruz, 22, hopes to take home the crown at the event on Sunday, July 16. And after winning Miss Nuevo Laredo 2023, she has her goals set high hoping to win the Tamaulipas crown before vying for the titles of Miss Mexico and Miss World.

“It is a bit of pressure because I know that I am representing two countries, but it really fills me up with a lot of honor and pride to say that I am from both Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas and Laredo, Texas,” Gonzalez said. “The beautiful thing about Laredo is that it offers a lot of cultures with an embodiment of the Mexican and American culture. If I am to win, I will highlight the communities of Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, and how they form a city sisterhood and how it is two worlds in one city.”

Since there was no pageant held last year at the city level because of the continuing effects of the pandemic, Gonzalez was provided Nuevo Laredo’s crown by the city’s Mayor Carmen Lilia Canturosas as she will represent them at Miss Tamaulipas.

It’s been a long time coming for Gonzalez, who wished to follow in the footsteps of her mother to compete in pageants. And amid the immense work to prepare for these events, she discovered her love for social work. But while she has her sights set on “conquering the world,” she’s already faced significant backlash from others who do not think she should be able to represent her two home cities.

Early beginnings

Since she was little, Gonzalez always felt she had a gift to entertain. She loved to dance and sing, and she always focused on the positives in life.

Her mother encouraged her at a young age to enter various activities, and among them that she participated in was acting courses, as she wanted to be an artist.

“I think that my mother since then saw something in me that I wanted to be on top of a stage and do something artistic, however, it wasn’t until I started participating in beauty pageants that my true interest began,” she said.

Gonzalez said she felt even more in love with the pageant world when she saw that her own mother, Thelma De La Cruz Gonzalez, had actually won the Nuevo Laredo Epomex Crown in 1994.

“I have always felt that connection with my mom, and ever since I was little I would tell her to take out the crown. I wanted to see it, as for me it was a treasure,” Gonzalez said. “At the age of 13, I also saw my older sister compete in Miss Laredo. Since then I asked my mom to let me get into beauty pageants, but it took them three years until I was 16 for them to accept.”

Once she entered the pageant world, she said she found success in her first-ever contest Miss Teen Laredo Latina and Miss Teen USA Latina before placing seventh at the national level. When she was 21, she competed at Miss Laredo for the first time. 

Now her mother is excited to see her daughter compete at Miss Tamaulipas.

“I am really proud and happy of what my daughter has been able to accomplish, who Alma is as a person and how she has been able to have a positive impact in the community and the people of both Laredos,” she said. “I really thank God for allowing her to become the miracle that other people might need. That is my biggest appreciation to God.”

Meanwhile, Gonzalez said that her father originally balked at the idea of pageant participation when she was younger but now is really into them as he supports her. And he was especially excited when she joined the Miss Tamaulipas pageant, as she would be able to reconnect with her Mexican roots.

“He was the first one that said no when I was just 13 years old, but now he loves for me to compete,” Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez credits her pageant director, Elma Garza, for entrusting her and pushing her to form part of the Miss Tamaulipas pageant. 

“When I was in the Miss Texas competition, my current pageant director saw all that I did in preparation for the Laredo crown,” Gonzalez said. “Since she was also the person that helped me in my modeling choreography and saw all the trajectory I have, and with all the social services I have worked with in both cities, it made me want to become part of the Miss Tamaulipas pageant.” 

Preparing for Miss Tamaulipas

Competing for a major event like Miss Tamaulipas — especially for someone who hopes to later compete for Miss Mexico and Miss World — is not as simple as just showing up. In fact, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. 

Gonzalez said she is preparing tirelessly for the competition. This includes practicing with her modeling instructor, learning from her instructor of history and Mexican culture, and perfecting her Spanish accent and terminology with her diction professor.

When it comes to learning Mexican history, Gonzalez has been instructed by a professor to study every aspect of history through homework she is given every week. During the pageant, all of the contestants will be provided with a written exam focused on Mexico and among other educational activities that all sum up points for choosing who the queen is. 

Some of these other activities include a five-kilometer run, traditional Tamaulipas dance choreography performing a Huapango dance, a modeling competition, best dresses and night gown, and the final questioning by the judges.

At Miss Tamaulipas, Gonzalez will present some of the social work projects she has been a part of. She plans to present a binational project as part of the pageant’s Belleza Con Proposito program.

“The project I will present focuses on uniting the border communities by using the Teleton Mexico and Teleton USA foundations and pointing out how they can work together to help out people across the border in both directions,” she said. “In June, I will be having a very important trip to Mexico City and get to know four of the 24 Teleton installations, as in the United States we only have one in San Antonio.”

Gonzalez will also showcase the work she has done in Laredo, as she has worked with Laredo Animal Protective Society and even ensured to bring a $15,000 grant from Clorox. With the money, she and the pet organization helped create the Welcome Snacks project and traveled to New York City to speak about it. 

Gonzalez has also volunteered with the Laredo Regional Food Bank, as whenever one of her father’s clients has any leftover food or boxes, they quickly take it to the organization so they can use it in their donation events. 

Sparking a love for social work

Gonzalez said she likes the Miss Tamulipas pageant due to how it focuses on helping people with social work including going to different parts of the world to help.

Gonzalez has for the past seven years been doing social work and activities in Los Dos Laredos. She is currently the local ambassador for Teleton USA, which is the American branch of Mexico’s Teleton — a non-profit organization that seeks to serve people with disabilities, cancer and autism that annually hosts a major fundraiser to raise awareness and funds for their programs.

With Teleton USA, Gonzalez has been able to help people in Los Dos Laredos by giving away wheelchairs, protection equipment and other medical supplies when available, and even school desks for children. She has also partnered up with businesses on both sides of the border to gather money for the organization. 

Gonzalez recalls the time that she distributed a wheelchair to a fellow Laredoan four years ago. The man had an accident at his job that resulted in the loss of both of his legs. He was living in a mobile home with no electricity or water. And his child had soon after the accident been diagnosed with autism.

While the man was struggling, she said that he showed up to receive the wheelchair with a huge smile on his face.

“I was amazed how something so small could impact and change somebody’s world so much and make a big impact in their life, and I just tried to hold in my tears. And once I got to the car, I fully let go,” she said.

The moment meant the world for Gonzalez. Although the man later died in 2022, she says she always remembers the moment she had with him and credits him for being the inspiration she has to continue giving back through social work.

Now a graduate of Texas A&M International, Gonzalez wants to focus on primary and elementary education as a profession in order to help migrant children learn English. Every year while she was at the university, she was recognized for her social service work — receiving four Presidents Volunteer Service Awards under U.S. Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award upon graduating. 

Criticism for representing two cities

Deciding to compete for a Mexican city as an American citizen has not been met with support by some.

As a representative of two cities, Gonzalez said she has been criticized heavily for her choice to represent Nuevo Laredo at the state level in Tamaulipas. This is due to her living for so long in the Gateway City. 

While Gonzalez is a U.S. citizen, she is able to compete in the pageant due to being born in Mexico. The story is similar to that of Miss Grand Paraguay Maelia Salcines, who Gonzalez said she was able to meet during the Miss Texas pageant. Salcines went on to compete for Miss Universe years later.

And just like her inspiration in Salcines, Gonzalez said she will continue to push through any criticism that comes her way as she abides by the rules of the pageant to represent Los Dos Laredos.

“Just because we change formats or competitions does not mean that we want to win a crown,” Gonzalez said. “Rather it is because we want to represent our country with much respect and honor, and if we have such opportunity, then why not do it?” 

By: Jorge A. Vela

Source: LMT Online