BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — This beauty pageant-obsessed South American nation celebrated for about two minutes what appeared to be an unprecedented feat: back-to-back Miss Universe titles.
From President Juan Manuel Santos to Miss Colombia’s relatives in the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla, Colombians shouted in joy when it was announced that Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo had won this year’s crown.
But the celebrating turned to shouts of anger seconds later as host Steve Harvey announced on live television from Las Vegas that he had mistakenly read from the cue card. The contestant from the Philippines was the new Miss Universe, not Miss Colombia.
The sudden reversal even caught by the president by surprise, forcing him to reverse his initial celebratory Tweet.
“For us you’ll always be our Miss Universe,” he wrote in a message to Gutierrez after the error was discovered. “We feel very proud.”
Colombians are obsessed with beauty and pageants are a major draw across social classes. But unlike neighboring Venezuela, which has won seven Miss Universe titles, Colombians are accustomed to falling short of the crown, with five runner-up appearances since 1992 including Sunday’s.
Before last year’s crowning of Paulina Vega, only one other Colombian had won the Miss Universe title, in 1958.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s shocking finale, Colombians were at a loss to explain the mistake.
Some morning talk show hosts blamed Donald Trump, saying they could find no financial record confirming that he had indeed sold the rights to the pageant as he said he did in September.
Many Colombians were earlier outraged when Trump on the campaign trail accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug traffickers to the U.S. On Sunday, some said they believed the Republican presidential candidate was somehow still pulling the strings to prevent another Latina from being crowned.
Trump said Monday that he regretted the mixup, adding that it would never have happened under his watch.
“Mafias are everywhere. They stole the title,” said Efrain Salinas, a doorman in a Bogota apartment building. “After winning last year’s Miss Universe we’re a beauty pageant powerhouse and nobody wants us to win again.”
For her part, Gutierrez in her initial remarks seemed saddened but resigned to her fate.
“Everything happens for a reason,” she said, wiping back a tear, in a backstage video posted on the organizer’s website in which she also thanked the judges who voted for her.