Quito—It is springtime in the capital of Ecuador, and that means everyone is celebrating Carnival, as are people all over Latin America. In the halls of the Fundación Colegio Americano—the American School—in the neighborhood of Carcelén, students are gearing up for the annual election of the school’s “princess.” This is no suburban prom queen selection. The election takes a beauty contest and transforms it into a grand display of wealth. One candidate is chosen from each of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. Even in a school for the ultra-wealthy, filled with unusually attractive children, these girls stand out as the true beauties. As the three candidates campaign, six-foot photos of each hang in the school’s main foyer, greeting those who enter with a hint of cleavage and the come-hither expressions of fashion models.

Three days of Carnival festivities have...

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