And The Reina Is…


If we learned anything from Pre-Service Training it was to expect the unexpected. Little did we know two nights ago that being invited to the crowning of the Reina Señora of our town actually meant serving as 2 of the 3 judges for the evening’s competition. Here’s how it went down…

Paul has been meeting up regularly with our neighbor for a conversation class—one hour in English and one hour in Spanish about once a week. Why am I explaining this? Well, because this neighbor of ours invited us to the event last night by giving Paul a complimentary ticket at their last meeting. Turns out he was the main organizer of the pageant and the MC for the evening.

We arrived at the event nearly an hour later than the advertised start time as any good Ecuadorian would do. Still, we were early. It was another hour and a half before the competition began. During that time we enjoyed techno music in Spanish, English, and Portuguese and looked for our friend to say hello. About an hour before the pageant started we spotted our friend. He came over to us and said hello to Paul and shook my hand and kissed me as we met for the first time.

Then, he said (in Spanish), “You two are going to help me this evening, right?”
We nodded politely.
“You two are going to choose the winner, okay?”
We looked at each other.
“Sure,” I said, thinking that the winner would somehow be chosen by audience applause.
Then, he followed up by saying, “I’ll announce you. What are your last names?”
“Oh,” Paul said, stunned. “Wilson.”
He turned to me. “And your last name?” he asked.
I tried to pronounce my last name in a way that would make sense in Spanish but failed.
Finally, I just said, “Mari Wilson is fine.”
He winked and gave us a thumb’s up.

When our friend was out of earshot Paul and I tried to figure out what had just happened. Did he really mean that we would be judges? Why us? What did we get ourselves into?

Then, we noticed the judge’s table right in front of the catwalk. There were 3 chairs. A tall blonde woman wearing a rhinestone crown and a golden sash walked into the room. We would meet her later as the third judge. Or, should I say #1 judge since she was the only one of us who knew what she was doing.

We had nearly an hour of sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to find out the answers to our most pressing concerns. In order of importance we worried that:

1. We would need to give a speech in front of the audience that had swelled to over 200 people (in Spanish).
2. That we would need to make remarks like the judges on American Idol after each contestant’s performance (also in Spanish).
3. That we would have to go on stage and crown the winner (in Spanish).

After enjoying a teenage dance troupe from a neighboring town (I would have given them a 10!) our friend got on the microphone and announced the judges. First, the woman with the crown (no surprise there). Second and third, Señor Paul Wilson and his lovely wife, Mari, all the way from the United States!

We stood up. I wished I had worn lipstick and a nicer dress. Paul wished he had worn a button-down shirt and closed-toe shoes. We took our places at the judge’s table and were thankful for the bottles of water waiting for us. I was even more thankful for the instructions given to me by the #1 judge on my left that I translated for Paul. We were to score each contestant on a 5-point scale in 3 categories.

In the end, the most difficult part was choosing a winner. We actually had a tie for first place that we had to break with a second vote. Turns out we weren’t expected to give any speeches but our #3 concern did come true. I had to crown the second runner up and Paul had to crown the first runner up. On stage in front of everyone. Thank goodness the #1 judge crowned the winner.

All in all it was an incredible event and we were happy to be part of it. It would have been nice to be a bit more prepared but then again if we had known what we were in for we might not have shown up at all. One of the pieces of advice we were given during Pre-Service Training was to always say, “yes.” That’s exactly what we did that night.

Until the next adventure, Mari


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One response to “And The Reina Is…”

  1. Bruce MacKenzie says :

    Well done! After a couple of years you guys will be ready for full time judicial positions in the Great State of Mississippi! I hope you will post pictures of the contestants and the coronation!!!

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