Since 1952, women have competed in the international beauty contest known as the Miss Universe pageant. Eight of the Miss Universe title holders have represented the United States. Venezuela has produced six winning contestants.
Which nation has produced the next largest number of winners? The answer is not a nation at all: it’s Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States. Puerto Rico competes separately in the Miss Universe pageant, just as it does in the Olympics, and its Miss Universe contestants won the title in 1970, 1985,1993, 2001 and 2006 (making the case that Puerto Rico stood a good chance of winning both the Miss USA and Miss Universe titles over many years – perhaps Puerto Rico doesn’t need its own category to win and the whole US could have shared in the glory?).
Someone asked the blogger at The Daily Apple why this should be so.
It seems to me that there are two ways of going about answering this. The first would be to clarify Puerto Rico’s official, political relationship with the US, and then to see how the Miss Universe rules compare. But that is clearly the more boring option.
The Daily Apple didn’t come up with an answer, though there are some interesting facts about the Miss Universe pageant there.
Puerto Rico can participate as a nation in the Miss Universe pageant, as in the Olympics. The pagent and the Olympics are privately run entities and can devise their own rules. They can include territories as well as countries as contestants, as well as anyone else they choose.
When Puerto Rico has tried to participate in as a nation in the sphere of international diplomacy, however, the U.S. has objected. When that happens, Puerto Rico doesn’t get to participate. As Colin Powell explained in a memo on one such occasion,
The U.S. federal government has full responsibility for the conduct of foreign relations of all areas subject to United States jurisdiction, including all U.S. states, territories, and possessions. Accordingly, the Department reviews any proposed participation by a U.S. territory or possession in international bodies.
The states of the U.S. are also under federal control, as Powell pointed out. The difference is that the states have voting members in the Congress looking out for their interests. This might be worth more than the ability to compete for the title of Miss Universe.