Latinos remember the 1996 encounter between Venezuelan beauty queen Alicia Machado and Donald Trump

Sep 30, 2016 | 121 comments

By Liam Higgins

Although few U.S. viewers of Monday’s presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have any memory of Alicia Machado, most Latin Americans do.

Alicia Machado

Alicia Machado

Hillary Clinton brought up Machado near the end of the debate, claiming that Trump had insulted her after she was crowned Miss Universe in 1996. According to Machado, Trump, who owned the Miss Universe pageant at the time, referred to her as “Miss Piggy” because she gained weight, and “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latino. Machado is Venezuelan but is now a U.S. citizen as well.

“We remember her because of the way she was treated after the beauty pageant,” says Cuenca Spanish teacher Maria Diaz. “That was the first time most of us had heard of Donald Trump.” Diaz added that Latinos take great pride in the fact that so many Latin Americans win international beauty pageants. “I understand that they are out of fashion in the U.S. but down here they are still important to us.”

Newspapers across Ecuador and Latin America are giving the Trump – Machado controversy front-page coverage with many editorializing about it, suggesting that it indicates the condescension with which the U.S. treats Latin America.

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Credit: El Comercio / Quito

Credit: El Comercio / Quito

In interviews with Fox News and CNN, Machado said that Trump had acted aggressively toward her. “He was really rude and what he said and did was very inappropriate,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday. She added: “He is a really a bad person.”

Machado was supported in her claims by other beauty queens, including the former Miss Australia Jodie Seal who called Trump “obnoxious and controlling” during the 1996 Miss Universe pageant. “He called the contestants some pretty horrible names,” she said.  “He would say to me, ‘Suck your gut in!,’ and ‘Stop eating!” Seal said.

Most Latin America media proclaimed Clinton the debate winner, pointing to the Machado exchange between Trump and Clinton as the defining moment. Clinton was judged the winner by about 90% of respondents in post-debate polls taken by news organizations in Ecuador, Mexico, and Colombia.

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