SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Nicaraguan Miss Chienice Palacios won the Miss Universe contest late Saturday night in El Salvador, the first from her country to wear the crown.
Palacios is a 23-year-old communications specialist who said she wanted to work on promoting mental health after experiencing debilitating anxiety attacks herself.
Miss Thailand Antonia Porsild was named first runner-up, and Miss Australia Murraya Wilson was named second runner-up.
Eighty-four women competed for the crown in the seventy-second edition of the competition.
Palacios seemed to have secured the win when she confidently answered a question about which woman’s shoes she would like to spend a year in by saying Mary Wollstonecraft, the 18th-century English writer and philosopher. Wollstonecraft was an advocate for women’s rights and is considered one of the pioneers of the feminist movement.
Palacios said she wants to work to close the gender salary gap so that women can work in any field.
The last time Miss Universe was held in El Salvador was in 1975. This year’s event was another opportunity for President Nayib Bukele to make all the changes made under his administration, especially significantly improving the safety of the country.
“El Salvador has changed forever and we showed it again,” Bukele said on Saturday evening. “Miss Universe has given us the opportunity to show the world what we are capable of. Thank you for choosing to be part of the rebirth of El Salvador.”
Bukele is running for re-election despite constitutional term limits and is widely popular for his crackdown on gangs in the country. But he has faced international criticism for undermining checks and balances on his power and failing to respect human rights.
More than 72,000 people have been arrested without due process since a state of emergency was declared in March 2022 in response to a surge in gang violence. The special powers granted to Bukele remain in place.