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Martha Rocha, 87, Dies; to Brazil, a Beauty Queen Denied a Crown

  • July 10, 2020

For beleaguered Brazilians, Mr. Xexéo said, suddenly “there was a beautiful woman representing Brazil before the whole world, and that was really something.”

Maria Martha Hacker Rocha was born in Salvador da Bahia, a coastal city about 800 miles northeast of Rio, on Sept. 19, 1932, to Álvaro Pereira Rocha, an engineer and mathematics professor, and Hansa (Hacker) Rocha, a homemaker of German descent who raised the couple’s 11 children.

Martha Rocha was in college when a friend persuaded her to enter a local beauty pageant, and it put her on her trajectory to stardom. She was 21 when she won the title of Miss Brazil, though she had said that she was 18.

After competing in the Miss Universe pageant (which was won by the reigning Miss USA, Miriam Stevenson, a South Carolina college student), Ms. Rocha was flooded with offers for acting roles and advertising work, but her interest was in starting a family, her son said.

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