Five-year-old Alexa wasn't always considered a queen, as she was born with a cleft lip. Fortunately, Alexa received her free life-changing cleft repair surgery from Smile Train at a young age.
In Mexico, there is still social stigma against people born with clefts. That's why it was such an achievement for Alexa to be crowned as queen of Carnival.
Carnival has been a Mexican tradition for more than 300 years, and offers a unique blend of colonial Spanish and Mesoamerican traditions. Today, 200+ Mexican communities hold annual Carnival festivities — the largest in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala is held in the town of Totolac.
For years, Alexa watched other little girls wearing beautiful clothes and crowns during Carnival. She dreamt that one day she would be a queen at the celebration. “I want to be queen so I can throw candy to other children and people can take pictures of me in my crown. I like to pretend that I am someone great, like a princess or a queen,” said Alexa.
Her mother, Rosa María, knew that this was important to Alexa, so she asked the local neighborhood association, Tarsis Camada, to consider Alexa as queen for their annual float. Several weeks later, Alexa’s dream came true when she was elected as queen of Tarsis Camada.
Tarsis Camada and Alexa prepared for the festival for months; dances were choreographed, floats were constructed, and costumes were sewn. Rosa borrowed a beautiful green and white queen’s dress and helped decorate the royal float.
On the day of Carnival, Queen Alexa and her partner King Gael received loud applause as they waved and threw candy to children throughout the parade route. The Tarsis Camada dancers accompanied Alexa with bright and colorful feathers, masks made out of ayacahuite, and embroidered blankets, but Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. Blas Domínguez, the local surgeon who performed Alexa’s cleft surgery, said her smile was the highlight of the parade.
After the event, Smile Train’s Monica Dominguez, Program Director, Mexico and Central America, said, “On Carnival day, everyone can dress up, dance, and enjoy themselves without fear of being judged or receiving social prejudice. Some children with facial differences are excluded from the community, but Tarsis Camada and the town of Totolac made a former cleft patient a queen for a day. We hope that this kind of acceptance is not only saved for Carnival, but throughout the entire year.”