When Shakira Barrera arrived on the red carpet for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, she came ready to make a powerful statement. The GLOW actress wore a white column gown with a blue-and-white cape. When she spread her arms open, she revealed that her cape resembled the flag of Nicaragua, the country where her parents are from. Her small purse featured a bedazzled escudo of the Central American country’s flag on one side, and the words “Free Nicaragua” on the other.
Nicaragua has been in the midst of conflict since April (though people’s dissatisfaction with the government spans an even longer time) when President Daniel Ortega increased pension contributions from employers and reduced the pensions of retirees by 5 percent. This began a wave of protests across the country. This forced Ortega to reverse the pension reforms, but it did little to stop the anger. Since then, people have continued to call for his resignation. However, the government has suppressed those who speak out, making people upset.
Though the protests don’t occur every day, the situation in Nicaragua has not improved. Many have found themselves making the painful decision to leave their homes for surrounding countries, such as Honduras and Costa Rica. Others have headed to the United States. And some continue to fight from El Chipote, an old prison used for interrogation and torture.
With her red carpet moment, Barrera used one of the entertainment industry’s biggest nights to draw attention to the situation in Nicaragua. She accomplished the look with the help of stylist Javier Pedroza and designer Germain Renner, a designer of Nicaraguan descent.
Aside from the dramatic look, Barrera has shown her dedication to Nicaragua plenty of times. She’s used her Instagram account to record messages about the protests. She donates monthly to a Nicaraguan-based charity that helps disabled people in the country. And she has spoken about the importance of her position as a Nicaraguan-American actress.
“I feel a lot of responsibility being here and representing you all,” she told El Nuevo Diario in October. “I feel that we deserve to be here, but we haven’t had the same opportunity as other Latin American countries.”