EDITORIAL: Cardona passes the torch to González

It’s been 21 years since the former Marissa Perez was crowned Miss Connecticut. Her path shows that a pageant contestant can achieve great things, far beyond the glitz, glamor and gowns that such events present.  Perez — now Marissa Cardona — works as a college and career coordinator for Meriden Public Schools. She’s also the wife of Miguel Cardona, U.S. Education Secretary.

In those intervening 21 years, there has not been another Latina crowned as Miss Connecticut — and as such, going on to represent the state at the national Miss America competition.

Until now. Enter Sylvana Maria González, of New Britain, Miss Connecticut 2022. “I felt at first an immense amount of joy, a little bit of pressure, but then a lot of excitement knowing that I am what I needed to see when I was younger,” González said as reported by the Record-Journal’s Lau Guzmán. Guzmán caught up with González at the Aqua Turf Club when González was there to present at the 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards held by the Record-Journal.

Guzmán described some of the ways González will highlight her heritage at the competition: “She will be the first person to present Latin Jazz as her talent on the main stage of Miss America, and the only Puerto Rican who will compete this year.”  González plans to wear her natural curly hair to challenge traditional Latin American beauty standards.

Her platform is domestic violence and she’s launched a social impact initiative called “With Heart, Redressing the Run of Abuse” with outreach to the Latino community.  “We’re experiencing a cultural revolution in our country with women finding the courage to stand up and have their voices heard on many issues. Miss America is proud to evolve as an organization and join this empowerment movement,” said Gretchen Carlson, chair of the Board of Trustees, in a 2018 statement that announced changes to how the organization would operate.

That rebranding of Miss America means the “pageant” is now framed as a competition and functions as a 501 c(4) Social Organization. There’s no swimsuit parade and contestants are no longer judged on physical appearance. The emphasis is on scholarships. González received $10,000 as Miss Connecticut, helping her to return to college.

Guzmán wrote about Marissa Cardona’s reflections on her experience as Miss Connecticut in 2001. “Representing Connecticut as a Latina is something I will forever be grateful for. My parents came to Connecticut leaving the beautiful Isla del Encanto to achieve the American dream. Representing my family and the state of Connecticut is something I will forever hold close to my heart.”

It’s uplifting to hear these women speak about their pride in who they are, both in terms of their individuality and their heritage. And to hear their pride in representing their communities and the state.  The final phase of the competition is scheduled for Dec. 15 at Mohegan Sun. While all the contestants represent as women of achievement and no doubt are worthy of the crown, we’ll be rooting for Sylvana Maria González.


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