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Sun Feb 24, 2013, 08:47 PM

Beauty queen’s death unveils violence, opulence and mystery of Mexico’s narco country

Maria Susana Flores walked up to the microphone in a sequined black dress, showing the judges of the Sinaloa Woman beauty contest the smile and the strut she had perfected in pageants since preschool. “Women, no matter how hard you try, you cannot change your past,” the 20-year-old contestant said in a sweet, high voice. “But you can choose today what your future will be.”

Drums rolled as Susana left center stage and turned to pose, placing manicured hands on her tiny waist and shaking back long brown hair. The crowd whooped. The judges were dazzled by the dark-eyed beauty with the Penelope Cruz lips, and before long she was bowing her head to accept the 2012 crown.

If you had asked her that February weekend, the new Sinaloa Woman would have said the future she’d chosen was clear: a calendar of pageants as far away as China, a chance to compete for the coveted Miss Sinaloa title, and then, Miss Mexico.

But Susy, as she was called, had chosen another path at the crossroads of power and beauty in a state known for drug lords and pageant queens. It was a fateful choice.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/beauty-queens-death-unveils-violence-opulence-and-mystery-of-mexicos-narco-country/2013/02/23/54219eee-7dd7-11e2-9073-e9dda4ac6a66_singlePage.html?tid=obnetwork

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