Mileidy Materano, T&T’s Venezuelan-born delegate at the Miss Grand International Pageant in Vietnam next month, says this country will always be her “first love”.
She made the comment in a statement released by Kerry Goberdhan, head of marketing and public relations for franchise holders SPL Pageants.
“There is an irreplaceable connection to the land of your birth and it is impossible not to fall in love with our warmth as a people. As we continue to open our arms and invite the world in, this is what we must show the world,” Materano said.
“I argue that we, as Trinidadians, have long pioneered the concepts of inclusiveness and acceptance of all. In fact, that is the country of my forefathers and the country I grew up in! Our vision for the future should be to continue to pioneer being this vivid and multi-cultural utopia that we have always been!”
Materano pointed out that Trinidadians “have migrated to several countries across the world and have made those countries their home”.
“Likewise, our neighbours have come to our shores to find their home. This, however, is not a new phenomenon. To create a better life for themselves and their families, our forefathers emigrated. The movement of peoples and cultures has shaped the very world we live in,” she said in the statement.
“When I hear Trinis speak of their ancestry, they say it proudly, ie Spanish, Portuguese, French, Indian, Syrian and African. All of these cultures have melted into our society and integrated into what we know as Trinidad and Tobago. Even our beloved Carnival and J’Ouvert find their roots in French Creole history.
“We have opened our lands to other nations because of their hardships and struggles, but let us not forget the hundreds of thousands of Trinidadian-born who call the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom their homes.
“Our West Indian culture lives strong in these nations. Should our brothers and sisters abroad be victimised for their choice to seek other opportunities outside of our land?”
The pageant organisers were heavily criticised for selecting Materano because she is a non-national. However, they stood by her, noting that she had met all the entry requirements.
Seemingly addressing this controversy, she said, “In this ever-evolving world, many of us are no longer limited to the borders of our country of birth. Instead, we make our own, we grow and find where we belong. We find our home and for some lucky people ‘our homes’.”
Meanwhile, Mister Grand International T&T, Stephen Bassano, emphasised the importance of promoting acceptance, compassion, and understanding.
He said he hopes his platform will shed light “on vulnerable groups such as Venezuelan immigrants and inspire Trinbagonians to demonstrate their compassion and tolerance”.
Bassano has been described as an exemplary leader who is committed to representing T&T on the international stage. He said his passion for pageantry and his desire to inspire his fellow citizens drove him to take on the role and he aims to be an ambassador for change, promoting holistic development and encouraging individuals to break through barriers and pursue their dreams.
“Trinidad and Tobago’s greatest strength lies in its diversity, as its people have come together from many backgrounds to form a united nation,” Bassano said.