Broken Dreams: The Murder of a Beauty Queen

by Stephanie Ortez

How many of us have dreamed to become the next Miss Universe when were little? The big, long, perfect hair, the white smiles, the impeccable body, the dazzling fashion, and the goal of wearing a crown affirming you are royalty. In a country like Honduras, dreams like this are almost impossible to achieve. It was my dream to become a musician, but the cold face of poverty and violence in my country of birth hit me so hard, it meant the only way to come to terms with these lofty goals was to leave and come to the United States.

For Maria Jose Alvarado, this dream became a nightmare.

There weren’t any smiles on the day of Maria’s unfortunate and brutal demise. When I first heard rumors that Maria had disappeared, my worst fears were confirmed. Her perfect body was dumped undignified on a river bank near her home in Santa Barbara, Honduras. Maria’s beautiful body and dreams were pulverized in the dark – away from the dazzling limelight, the praises, and the crown she deserved.

Maria Jose became a hero in her own right when she selflessly threw herself on top of her sister, Sofia, only 23 years old, as she tried to defend her from Sofia’s boyfriend, Plutarco Antonio Ruiz, who shot both sisters in a jealous rage without any regrets.

Maria’s body, wrapped in brown plastic, was loaded into the back of a soiled pickup truck. How could a beautiful young woman, like Maria, meet such a tragic end? On the threshold of life, she had been scheduled to compete at Miss World 2014 in December of that year. Although described as timid, Maria began competing in pageants at an early age. Born into a middle-class family in Honduras, Maria was more than the average girl next door. She worked hard to maintain her modeling career without leaving her studies behind. A sensible, bright girl who protected her elder sister until the very end.

via MailOnline

In a country where corruption is rampant, it’s important to understand the tragedy behind these sisters’ murders. Maria’s mother, Maria Munos, has said her daughters’ killings gained notoriety due to the fact of Maria’s status as Miss Honduras.

Honduras holds the highest murder rate in the world with 84 homicides per 100,00 people. The gang presence is well established in the country. Honduras is also an important drug route to the U.S. Women and girls in the barrios live in constant fear of sexual attack and a violent death. Anyone can murder a woman in Honduras with cruel impunity. This is the fear of Mrs. Munoz, who believes her daughters’ killer will not receive the justice he deserves.

The murder of the Alvarado sisters represents a far bigger problem that is showing no signs of slowing down. Ninety percent of murders taking place in Honduras – even those affecting US Citizens – are never investigated, let alone ever solved. There are social and political problems that have been affecting Honduras for years: poverty, a coup d’etat, companies leaving the country, and no work. This is a country where women are murdered for $60.

What drove Plutarco Ruiz to kill both sisters? Jealousy. On that dreadful night, both sisters attended a birthday party. Maria Jose was eager to go back to Tegucigalpa. She needed to get ready and meet her sponsors before flying off to London for the Miss Universe pageant. She was beyond excited at this great opportunity for a young girl to represent her country in one of the most illustrious pageants in the world. Maria had told her mother her trip to London was also an opportunity to meet her brother for the first time, who was rumored to live in Germany. Maria Jose hesitantly agreed to accompany her sister to the party on that fateful evening. Little did she know that all of the frivolity and fanfare would soon be left as a memory to all those adoring friends, family, and admirers she left behind. That night at the party, Sofia’s boyfriend became enraged after seeing his girlfriend dancing with another man. The couple argued outside for a few minutes until Plutarco, without any hesitation, shot both sisters in cold blood. Their bodies were discovered six days later.

No mother should ever bury her daughters this way. No woman should feel threatened to speak for herself and follow her dreams. Every thirteen hours a woman is murdered in Honduras. What answers and hope can we give these women who have nowhere to turn? In my own experience knowing these stories first hand, I understand why many women flee the country and become part of a wave of undocumented immigrants. Since the Honduran government makes little effort to provide shelter and protection, these women can’t fight for their human rights like you and I do in the United States.

via Enterprise News

The idea that many of these crimes go unpunished is astonishing. Is this an issue about corruption or a moral value that has been buried because of the force of “machismo” or sexism that prevails especially among Hispanic men? You may argue this statement is too generalized. But when one I see a mother crying desperately for her daughters, it evokes memories of my own family in Honduras who are all living in extreme poverty, and all of the young girls pursuing a modeling career just to end up as prostitutes due to the lack of work and fear of getting killed. These are women whose lives are constantly threatened by men. Authorities even lay the blame on the women for their own deaths without even investigating. Women are “victims of a violent society and culture,” says Gilda Rivera, a member of the Center for Women’s Rights. “In Honduras, violence prevails.”

This travesty is what destroyed Maria Jose Alarado’s dream. This travesty is what is killing the hopes of many women in Honduras. To think that women are born into this and cannot escape is beyond tragedy. It is a cursed life in a hell hole where no matter what they do, they cannot be safe.

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Stephanie is a highly caffeinated mother of two wonderful boys. She is hopelessly addicted to non-fiction books and literature that moves her to tears. She is an admissions adviser for George Washington University online where she assists homeschooled students internationally. Stephanie lives with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. She is a passionate mental health advocate, a member of Stigma Fighters. Her writing has been featured on The Elephant Journal, The Mighty, The Organic Coffee Haphazardly and Feminine Collective. – See more at:

32 thoughts on “Broken Dreams: The Murder of a Beauty Queen”

  1. As terrible as this story is, thank you Stephanie, for bringing it to us. The real tragedy and shame is not that a beauty queen died in such a way, but that we only know of it because she was famous and successful. She stands in for all the poor and unknown women and girls world over who meet similar fates and whose names and faces we will never learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on and commented:
    There weren’t any smiles on the day of Maria’s unfortunate and brutal demise. When I first heard rumors that Maria had disappeared, my worst fears were confirmed. Her perfect body was dumped undignified on a river bank near her home in Santa Barbara, Honduras. Maria’s beautiful body and dreams were pulverized in the dark – away from the dazzling limelight, the praises, and the crown she deserved.


  3. It feels wrong to “like” this, Stephanie, and yet, thank you for taking time to document this case and start the conversation about the daily tragedies in Honduras. As Bob (above) said, how incredibly sad that this happened, not only to Maria and her sister, but continues to happen to so many other women. It’s truly sickening.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a tragedy that these lovely young women were taken from this world. The bigger tragedy is that the only reason we are learning about this is because of the familiarity due to the Miss Universe pageant. It is sad that that this is happening throughout Honduras without much publicity which might bring about an end to these crimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a sad and terrible story. I’m sure there are more stories like this that we didn’t hear about. We only happened to know about this because Maria was a popular person. I hope the Honduras government will finally do something about this.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This story just proves that women are still looked down on society and not much has changed especially in countries outside of the US. This is such a heartbreaking story and it’s even more painful because it sheds light on the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Its so sad that this kind of brutality is still happening with lots of women around the globe and this must be stopped. Let us continue to share this story to create awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such a heartbreaking story. Thank you for writing about this though. I think it’s so heartbreaking to hear about all these real life stories like these. It’s truly sad the way some people have to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. She works and writes. That is an amazing feat in itself because writing takes so much time!! Best of luck to her with her book sales!! Thanks for the author/book intro.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This brought such deep sadness and emotions to my heart. years ago I lost my girlfriend. she’s was raped and thrown into a ditch. I had to go identify the body because her parents couldn’t do it. It has haunted me and yes so many crimes go unpunished because these useless cops have never solved the case. This story reminds me of her and what she must’ve gone through. it tears me up to know she will never be able to live her dreams either.
    This world really can be a dispicable & brutal place. I just hope that she’s in a better place now, away from pain and hurt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss Alfonzo. I can’t imagine all the pain you still going through. It’s tragic how many precious lives are cut short due to violence. My heart aches for all the women who are victims of domestic violence, rape, etc…you’re right, we live in a despicable world, but we are here, alive, with the chance to raise our voices against these crimes. You’re in my prayers.


  11. Ah, this is depressing. So many lives taken by violence. I wish that the world were a better place. It feels scary to raise my son here. But I know that you can’t live in absolute, crippling fear.

    Liked by 1 person

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