Miss Universe contestants put on fashion show reflecting their nations' customs and traditions

Dresses with butterfly wings, dolphins, electric guitars and corn on the cob were shown in downtown Mexico City on Sunday as the 2007 Miss Universe pageant contestants put on a fashion show reflecting their nations' customs and traditions.

Thousands of spectators packed the capital's main drag, Reforma Avenue, to gaze at the striking, slinky and in some cases bizarre costumes worn by the hopefuls to win the beauty pageant, which will be held here May 28.

One of the most elaborate outfits was worn by Miss Brazil, Natalia Guimaraes, who shouldered huge wings to represent butterflies' migration in the South American nation.

Miss Bolivia, Jessica Jordan Burton, also drew applause when she took the stage in a dress of flowers in the green, red and yellow of her national flag.

But the loudest cheer was saved for Miss Mexico, Rosa Maria Ojeda, whose dress was decorated with a montage of Mexican food, including corn on the cob and tropical fruit, and symbols of pre-Hispanic cultures.

Ojeda's original dress was revised, after critics said its bullet-laden belts and sketches of hangings in reference to Mexico's 1926-1929 Cristero War were too violent.

Other contestants displayed more modern traditions

Miss USA, Rachel Smith, showed the United States' love for rock and roll, dressing in an Elvis Presley-style white suit and clutching an electric guitar.

A deadlocked Miss Jamaica, or Zahra Redwood, the first Rastafarian to compete for the beauty prize, went for a reggae theme with a T-shirt of singer Bob Marley and a cloak of a lion.

And Inga Skaya wore an ice hockey uniform to represent Canada's favorite sport.

Several contestants from seafaring nations selected marine themes. Miss Denmark, Zaklina Sojic, dressed like a mermaid. And Miss Dominican Republic, Massiel Taveras, shouldered two dolphins and sea plants.

"These are authentic costumes. They show the features of each country," said Laura Angelica Vasquez, 33, who traveled 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the central Mexican town of Tula to watch the show.

Others in the crowd came to protest: A group of women wore white dresses splashed in fake blood, donning sashes proclaiming them Miss Juarez, Miss Atenco and Miss Michoacan in reference to places in Mexico where women have been raped or killed.

"We are not against this event," said Miss Atenco, who would only give her first name, Mariana. "But we are here representing what our country wants to hide: that they kill and rape women."

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Author`s name Angela Antonova