By the time I reached Colombia I was two months into my journey along the Pan-American Highway. Every day, a different part of the 48, 000 kilometre network of roads across the Americas was a place I called home. Along the section that also makes up the South American backpacker trail, from Tierra Del Fuego to the Panama Canal, there was one constant. All the guys you meet have one thing in common, a love for Colombian women. As soon as I hit the streets in Bogota, Medillin and Cali, I too fell head over heels. It’s that ridiculous, unavoidable, primal urge that has you staring less at the city, and more at the women. Everywhere low cut tops revealed perfect boobs, and skinny black jeans showed off J-Lo designed bums. From my first day, I couldn’t wait for the time to hit the clubs to dance some reggaeton. This is Colombia, where cosmetic surgery is a part of the nation’s culture.
1. Life In Plastic…
In Colombia there are zero qualms attached to cosmetic surgery, it’s a place founded on an industry of perfection. There are over five hundred clinics in Colombia, making it the fifth highest nation of people going under the knife per capita. This huge stat even ranks it above the United States.
2. It’s 2014. Google A Doctor.
It’s not just Colombians that are having work done. Tens of thousands of caucasians flock to the Latin American nation each year as a part of a package deal. Medical tourism is not a new idea, but what draws tourists to Colombia is that the surgeons are actually world renowned, especially in body sculpture.
3. Kids and Scalpels.
A friend of mine told me that she had her ears pinned back at the age of twelve. It’s a tough time for anyone when puberty begins, but she told me in Colombia it’s far worse. Social pressure is placed on those little imperfections which in another culture, might be considered a cute feature. It’s a place where growing sexual tension is met with an even greater need for a sexual image. What I was taken aback by most was that this all comes with full parental support.
4. Narco Novias
During the late 80s and early 90s the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar and his Medillin Cartel ruled Colombia with an iron first. At the height of his power, it’s estimated that he controlled eighty per cent of the world’s cocaine market, and was listed as one of Forbes magazine’s 227 billionaires. The lifestyle was glamorous, and so were his women, the Narco Novias. Escobar and his henchmen were obsessed with a body image of a woman that would put Barbie to shame. His all encompassing influence sifted down through to the ‘ordinary’ people so that he defined beauty in Colombia. For the women who wanted in, cosmetic surgery became less about fixing what your mama gave you, and more about buying social status.
5. Without Tits There is No Paradise.
Today in Colombia the cartels have lost their power, but this idea of beauty, and what it can get you, remains. In Escobar’s hometown of Medillin there is even a free cosmetic surgery program on offer to the city’s poorest. The medical students are able to practise their skills, whilst the people can get the breasts and bums immortalised in Colombian pop culture. One of the most popular novellas (TV Dramas) from the past few years was Sin Tetas no Hay Paraiso, (Without Tits There is No Paradise).
6. The Obsession with Perfection.
I decided to opt in and get some corrections done myself. Just prior to having my corneas detached and a laser sent through my eyes I had a moment to talk to my doctor. I asked him why it is that Colombian’s have such a desire for cosmetic surgery, he responded; ‘I think because they can do it cheaply and easily, and they all want to follow what their image of beauty is.’
7. The Irony or Changing Perceptions
It is with the greatest irony that two of Colombian’s most beautiful women, Shakira and Sofia Vergara have never had any work done, at all.