They like big butts

It’s not something you see instantly, but once you’re told to look you think you see it everywhere. Colombia, and Medellin in particular, has a lot of women who walk around with plastic in their breasts and butts. The telltale sign is anatomy you could rest a drink on.

Per head of population Colombia has the fourth highest incidence of cosmetic surgery in the world. And the countries where it’s more prevalent are all richer. Adjust the stats for per capita income and Colombia has the most. This seems to suggest Colombians prioritise spending on plastic surgery more than anyone else in the world.

We’re told that breast augmentation costs about $2,500USD here. That’s not accessible to the mothers of Barrio Fundadores but it is to the emerging Colombian middle class, especially since many doctors now offer the surgery on credit. So you see it in the richer cities of the Colombian highlands: Bogota, Medellin and Cali. We’re told it’s becoming common for parents to stump up for their daughters’ breast augmentation on their sixteenth birthday.

Butt jobs are also on the rise. Colombia undertakes about 3% of the world’s plastic surgery but 9% of the world’s cosmetic butt surgery. There are more buttock augmentations in Colombia than anywhere else in the world.

We’ve talked before about how there doesn’t seem to be a single ‘ideal’ body type here. But all this curve adding plastic surgery makes us recalibrate this. It might just be that because the ideal is more curvaceous, women on either edge of this ideal (bigger and smaller) feel more comfortable in their skin. Or it might be that our experience was framed by the relaxed coastal areas, and not the aesthetically driven highlands.

Manikins show off completely implausible anatomy.
Maniquins show off completely implausible anatomy.

Plastic makes imperfect

The implications of this much surgery are worrying. Its conceivable that, for example, over the next seven to ten years one in ten Colombian women who lives in the big cities will have fake breasts. As surgery becomes ‘normal’ the definition of normal anatomy is likely to change. Young women who measure themselves against those around them will feel less normal. Then there’ll be more surgery and on the cycle will go. You can already see the changing ideals of anatomy in the ridiculous maniquins we snapped in Medellin.

That’s to say nothing of the sexism of this kind of surgery, nor the genuine medical dangers associated with it. At least on that front the good city of Medellin is keeping an eye out for its young women – advertising in the sparkling metro encourages them to seek out a qualified doctor for cosmetic procedures.

Statistics referred to in this post are drawn from the most recent International Survey on Aesthetic/Cosmetic Procedures.

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