May 7, 2010 by Louie Calderon NMSU NewsCenter
A new Miss Native American New Mexico State University was crowned last month during American Indian Week.
Aileen Cruz, a freshman majoring in business management is the 2010-11 Miss Native American NMSU princess. She is of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, formerly San Juan Pueblo, located in northern New Mexico.
“This has helped me overcome my shyness and discover the strength within me,” Cruz said. “It’s very surreal.”
As the new princess, Cruz represents NMSU as an advocate for higher education and is a recruiter of Native American students.
“I want to make education more of a priority in my Pueblo,” Cruz said. “I want to help recruit students to NMSU from northern New Mexico.”
Contestants are judged on four categories: public speaking, a traditional or cultural activity, an impromptu question and answer and overall presentation.
For Cruz, the cultural activity was the most memorable aspect of the contest. She performed the butterfly dance – a dance where she says only certain people in her Pueblo are chosen to perform every five to seven years.
“It was very special because I did the dance with my dad, while my uncle did the drumming and singing,” Cruz said.
Pageants are held throughout Indian Country to help transmit culture and traditions to young women, and in turn to the greater community.
“Aileen fits the role of being a goodwill ambassador,” Justin McHorse, director of NMSU’s American Indian Program said. “She is able maintain her cultural heritage while managing the pursuit of a higher education.”