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The ladies under the tiaras: Meet the 87th royal court

Queen Citrianna LXXXVII

Photo Courtesy of Rio Creative

Riza Renae Hernandez is this year’s Queen Citrianna, a young lady with her heart set on uniting her community through service while balancing a full schedule with grace.

“I’ve learned more about balance,” she said. Hernandez’s schedule includes plenty, such as attending the International Baccalaureate at Lamar Academy through McAllen Memorial High School, being a Principal Dancer with the Rio Grande Valley Ballet Company & Deborah Case Dance Academy, and leading as president of her theater club.

Daughter to Mark and Sylvia Hernandez, this senior is a Girl Scouts of America Bronze & Silver Award Recipient & Gold Award Candidate, a secretary of the National Honor Society, a Texas Bluebonnet Girls State Citizen and State Scholarship winner, a two-time recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Gold Award, and a Youth America Grand Prix International Finalist.

“Through being Queen Citrianna, I’ve learned how to balance all of these activities on top of being part of this organization,” she said. I’ve been able to learn how to last long nights after the gala or after the coronation and learn to adapt to having an even busier schedule than what I had before. And I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Even with a busy schedule, Hernandez has a heart for volunteerism and hopes her reign drives community members to volunteer for local organizations and nonprofits. Through this, she seeks to inspire her court to give to the community with clemency and elegance.

“I hope to inspire the youth, particularly young girls, to explore the spirit of volunteerism, because volunteerism is so important to me,” said Hernandez.

This queen also has royalty in her family lineage: her mother and aunt were Duchess of Calamondin in 1989 and 1992, with her mother landing the royal court as Princess of Orange Blossom in 1991. Her older sister, Kennedy Castillo, represented McAllen as Duchess of Palms in 2017 before becoming Lady-in-Waiting in 2018.

In 2013 she also participated in the Tangerine Court, serving as Princess of Lime Blossom.

Although not visible, patchwork details sewn onto the bodice pay homage to her family’s Texas Citrus Fiesta tradition. The details are compiled from various fabric swatches from her Duchess of Palms gown worn last year, her Princess of Lime Blossom gown that she wore in 2013, her sister’s Lady in Waiting gown worn in 2018, and her mother’s Princess of Orange Blossom gown worn in 1991.

Her dress, designed by Rose Coronado of Carmina Coronado Couture, is a regal Elizabethan ball gown of white Mikado satin with a classic sweetheart neckline, sheer long sleeves adorned with gold Canutillo lace, chaquira beads, bugle beads, and Swarovski crystals, and a high Elizabethan collar is also made of white Mikado satin and overlaid with gold Canutillo lace.

Her tapered bodice is also created out of white Mikado satin, overlaid with gold Canutillo lace, and adorned with chaquira and bugle beads, finished with Swarovski crystals for an opulent look. A basque waistline completes the bodice, where a voluminous skirt forms panniers on both sides of the gown, adorned with an ultra-dramatic bow of Mikado satin at the back.

As Queen Citrianna LXXXVII enters her reign, she welcomes her court with a heartfelt message:

“[I’d like to tell my court to] continue to be their own true selves, and not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others,” said Hernandez. “[And] continuing using their positive traits and positive attributes for the benefit of our community because I know that there are going to be many people who see us during our reign.”

She continued.

“I just know that the girls that I am going to be on the court with are such amazing individuals. And I would like for them to continue expressing themselves and continue expanding the positive attributes they have, and sharing their beautiful selves with the world and their communities.”

Princess of Grapefruit Blossom

Photo Courtesy of Rio Creative

Gabriela Cristina Ramirez, an Edinburg North High School senior, is this year’s crowned Princess of Grapefruit Blossom.

Ramirez proudly represents the strength and vigor of an agriculture ambassador within the Royal Court.

Growing up with an agricultural background and a Texas Citrus Fiesta lineage, this princess decided to dip her toes into pageantry in 2022.

Ramirez, the daughter of Mr. Rene Ramirez and Ms. Laura Guerra Ramirez, took pride in participating in Texas Citrus Fiesta since her aunt was former Queen Citrianna LXVII and Duchess of Live Oak, and her mom was Duchess of Peach.

“It is a family tradition,” she said, the symbolism of the tradition being a significant part of her duchess dress while competing. “If you look closely on my Duchess of Live Oak dress, there are leaves alongside my bodice and throughout my skirt that are actually from my aunt’s Duchess of Live Oak dress.”

Despite the Texas Citrus Fiesta pageant being her first time competing, she was determined to represent what she knows best: agriculture and her involvement in Future Farmers of America (FFA).

“I am very agriculturally based,” said the Princess of Grapefruit Blossom, who has shown livestock such as Brahman heifers for the last ten years. She is a member of the 4-H Texas Council, a Palm Valley District FFA President, a two-time Texas 4-H Fashion Show Champion and National Qualifier, and a delegate for the National 4-H Congress.

Even on the day of her interview for Royal Court, she showed cattle in Fort Worth.

“[At] my interview, I had just come home from the Fort Worth Livestock Show the day of. So I was super exhausted, super tired,” Ramirez said, her work-heavy day paying off as she earned her title last year and now begins her reign as the Princess of Grapefruit Blossom.

Through her reign alongside the Royal Court, Ramirez hopes to represent and inspire growth for girls and women in agriculture.

“It needs to be represented especially with women,” she said. “We are just as able as men to be able to produce agriculture.”

Ramirez also said that with a platform such as agriculture, she hopes to balance the lens of pageantry and farm working to emphasize the story behind the Fiesta and farming history.

Ramirez looks forward to bonding and creating a sisterhood with her Royal Court for the upcoming year. “This isn’t just a competition, but [it’s a place for] girls you’ll meet and have friendships for a lifetime. So I’m very excited to be working with the Royal Court and the Tangerine Court.”

Princess of Orange Blossom

Photo Courtesy of Rio Creative

Ashley Brooke Alaniz is keen to be crowned Princess of Orange Blossom.

Alaniz, a Veterans Memorial High School senior, never knew she would take part in a traditional influence such as the Texas Citrus Fiesta Royal Court.

“With the Royal Court, we can make a difference,” she said. “That’s why I like joining this organization because we did a lot of these community events, and I like to help around.”

Helping comes to this princess naturally as she pursues a certification in Phlebotomy, aspiring to become a nurse one day.

She is also a 2023 All-American Cheerleader, a debutante for the Hidalgo County Cotillion 2022-2023, a member of SkillsUSA, and participates in track jumping hurdles.

Alaniz is gracious to her parents, Mr. Jack and Mrs. Cristina Alaniz, alongside her city of Palmhurst, whom she represented as Duchess of Oleander the previous year, donning a rose-colored ball gown adorned with fabric oleander flowers.

“They [city manager and council] were so sweet and kind, and they helped me throughout my journey to get to this point,” she said.

This princess’ dress is of white satin, with a bodice embellished with French guipure. Appliques are embellished with silver pearls, crystal beads, and aurora borealis crystals. Her sleeves are embellished with white Italian appliques adorned in white glass crystals, chaquira, and aurora borealis stones.

“I’m showing off the work my seamstress put into this,” said Alaniz at the Royal Gala.

The bodice flows down into a white satin skirt finished with a French scalloped lace that adorns the circumference of the dress. A large bow on the bustle pieces the gown together with two satin-stoned oranges made of satin, mesh, and tulle decorated with glass beads, appliques, stones, and brooches.

Alaniz looks forward to her reign in the court.

“I look forward to getting close to them, learning off of them, how they speak,” she said, being shy when speaking among larger crowds. “They continue to teach me a lot of things. They’re very smart young ladies, and I love them so much.”

Lady-in-Waiting

Photo Courtesy of Rio Creative

Estefania Rico Arambula is this year’s Lady-in-Waiting and is excited to enter the sisterhood that Texas Citrus Fiesta has given her and the Royal Court.

“We’ve bonded so well. I mean, I love those girls more than I love myself,” she said while thinking back to when they knew each other as duchesses. “It’s incredible how quickly we bonded.”

For Arambula, her role as Lady in Waiting is a glue that supports and holds the Royal Court together in times of need.

“It is a very significant role,” she said. “I have to commit to all duties. If someone isn’t available to be at an event…there goes your Lady-in-Waiting to make sure everything is intact.”

Arambula, the daughter of Mr. Walter Rico and Mrs. Fabiola Arambula, said she will represent the court in a modest and significant way while being prepared for anything her ladies may need.

“You have to always make sure you’re available [and] always put others in your priority,” she said.

The Lady-in-Waiting began her pageantry journey when her principal at Sharyland High School suggested she participate in the 1st Annual Mission Duchesses competition due to her heavy involvement in the community.

This SHS senior participates in Varsity Swimming and Cross Country, volunteers as a Medical Assistant at Rio Grande Regional Hospital, is a Business Professional of America State President, a Shayland ISD Top Academic Performer, and a recipient of the Award of Excellence from the Congress of Future Medical Leaders.

“The last time I recall doing a pageant was when I was 5 or 6 years old. It was a very long time ago…If it means I’ll represent the school, sure, I’ll do it,” she told her principal.

In 2022, she won the title of Duchess of Butterfly. The following year, she represented her hometown of Mission at the 86th Texas Citrus Fiesta Gala and Coronation in a black and tangerine-colored dress with a bodice covered in monarch wings. On Feb. 4, 2023, Arambula earned the Lady-in-Waiting title at the Ruby Red Reception.

Now, as Lady-in-Waiting, she looks forward to working with the court.

“I look forward to creating more memories. That’s what Texas Citrus Fiesta has brought to me all this time. I’m excited to represent the Texas Citrus Fiesta at all the parades that are locally here or all over Texas,” she said.

“You’re there to put a smile on everyone’s face and to change your community. Even a little girl can change the world, and it all starts with the initiative you have to make sure that your community gets what [it] deserves.”

This Lady-in-Waiting, however, is determined to keep a hold on her title after she finishes her reign, stating that the title is never temporary.

“You will always have that title,” she said. “It starts with you and the initiatives that you have to be part of this organization called Texas Citrus Fiesta.”

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