May 30, 2007 -- Hey, Miss USA: Don't take it personally.
Miss Universe officials and observers say the Mexico City audience's incessant booing of Miss USA Rachel Smith during Monday night's pageant was not personal. Instead, they say it was a sign of the increasingly tense relationship between the United States and Mexico at a time when the immigration debate is hot.
The boos started as soon as Smith stepped forward for the interview round. And it continued, along with chants of "Mexico," as Smith launched into a history of her volunteer work in South Africa.
"I don't think they are booing because of Rachel," said Donald Trump, co-owner of the Miss Universe pageant. "They are booing because of the immigration policy."
The tensions were evident in 2004 and '05, when Mexicans booed during the national anthem at a soccer game against the United States, some even chanting "Osama."
Resentment has grown since then, as the United States sent the National Guard to help beef up border security and build a wall to keep immigrants out. Many Mexicans are also anxious about the new immigration bill which they fear would split Mexican parents from their American-born children.
"People in Mexico get a flavor of that debate and it's irking them, and I think what occurred is indicative of what happened in the manner and tone of Congress in the debate," said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association.
Some Mexicans feel that the United States uses its power to get its way in world politics and also in competitions such as the Miss Universe pageant, Lopez said. They were upset that Miss Mexico didn't make it to the final five and Miss USA did, even though she slipped and fell during the evening gown competition.
Smith has not commented on the story. It was a tough night overall for Miss USA: She failed to capture the crown after falling.
However, Smith is being credited for grace under fire during the boos, which she managed to partly turn into cheers by addressing the crowd in Spanish.