Hundreds of people lined up outside of Las Tinajas restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District March 8 to meet Miss Universe Sheynnis Palacios at the beginning of her U.S. tour. 

“Who wouldn’t be excited to see Nicaragua’s first Miss Universe,” said Henry Castro, who was carrying a large photograph of the beauty queen. “She’s such a humble person at heart.” 

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega initially expressed “legitimate joy and pride” over Palacios’ historic win in 2023. This moment soon became politically charged after video surfaced of Palacios participating in 2018 protests that were violently suppressed by the Nicaragua government, killing at least 355 people and forcing thousands into exile.

Although Palacios herself has not commented on the situation, her victory became a symbol of hope and resistance for the Nicaraguan opposition. Meanwhile, Ortega’s government has stopped mentioning Palacios altogether.

At the Las Tinajas restaurant, attendees mostly expressed pride and excitement over Palacios’ visit. “We hope more Nicaraguan women shine,” said a Nicaraguan attendee who goes by Mr. Spicy. “Not only for their beauty, but as people who can change the world.”

It is still not clear if Palacios will be able to return to her own country.