MEXICO CITY -- It was, in a manner of speaking, the biggest moment of Sunday night's presidential debate in Mexico.
To mark the debate's start, a stunning, undeniably well-endowed model took the floor, smiling silently and carrying a box with four pieces of paper in it that candidates drew to see who went first.
The candidates managed a straight face, but at first sight of her, dozens of journalists inside the debate press room at Mexico City's World Trade Center gasped and jeered.
The woman, identified later as a model and former playmate for Mexican Playboy, Julia Orayen, almost immediately became a trending topic on Twitter.
Orayen was serving as an edecan, a role that has long been traditional to formal political, business, or entertainment events in Mexico.
The edecan is a sort of hostess who stands during meetings or parties to help guide or coordinate guests. They are usually attractive young women with long hair who wear sexy dresses and heels, a feature of Mexican public life that some consider a throwback to the culture's more macho tendencies.
"Who won the debate?" one Twitter user quipped. "Edecan: 93%."
As photos of the debate's busty model kept abuzz online overnight, analysts and even some of the candidates on Monday morning took the edecan as a topic serious enough to discuss on the morning news radio programs.
Speaking to host Carmen Aristegui, presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota said she thought Orayen was "very attractive" but that her dress was inappropriate for the generally serious nature of the debate, the first of two organized by the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE (link in Spanish).
"The truth is, Carmen, I want to say that suddenly I was surprised, and I [thought], 'Well, what sort of event are we attending here?'"
Playing defense, a member of the IFE's governing council said that the edecan was hired by an independent production company contracted to organize the debate, but Councilor Alfredo Figueroa would not identify the producer (link in Spanish).
"We asked the producer that there be no elements of distraction, for a sober dress," Figueroa said.
Orayen had her own opinion on the matter. The model told W Radio host Brozo -- who wears a clown costume -- that she felt "weird" by the sudden surge of attention.
"I just got a call to be there, I didn't know what it was going to be about, and much less that it would have such an impact for 30 seconds," Orayen said.
"The costume ... intrigued me," Brozo replied.
"I got a call for a white dress. I took many options, and this was the one chosen by me," she said.
-- Daniel Hernandez
Image: In a screen shot of Sunday's video feed of the presidential debate in Mexico, model Julia Orayen carries a clear box to each of the candidates. Credit: Twitpic.com, via Twitter