Beautiful women in Medellín

It seems like a lifetime ago, but I used to live in Medellín. And, yes, as you might have gotten wind of, the women are beautiful there. (And so are the men, which is why I found myself there in the first place.) But I think the women are also beautiful in Bogotá, as well as gorgeous in the other parts of Colombia I’ve visited. And I think that American women are very pretty, Polish women are charming, Mediterranean women are stunning, Indian women are ravishing, Kenyan women are lovely, Asian women are knockouts, etc. I’ve never felt there was any scarcity of feminine beauty in the world, nor any exclusivity. Beauty is generous and abundant, and with an endless variety that’s fascinating.

Medellín and the department of Antioquia seem to have many elements, though, such as poverty, extreme regional pride, and narco culture (both current and leftover from its height in decades past) that have combined to create a particular subculture of beauty and vanity. The women I knew and spent time with in Medellín were probably the last people to ever do something like get plastic surgery or dream about competing in a beauty pageant, but I can’t deny that that cult of beauty is very strong in that region. It manifests itself in a lot of ugly ways, and it also not infrequently has tragic consequences. My dance instructor there died shortly after I left following a botched series of at-home injections of liquid silicone to give him a more shapely butt.

I’m grateful that the city is becoming much more proactive and aggressive about sex tourism and child prostitution–the kerfuffle caused by a recent controversial newspaper article calling the city the biggest brothel in the world seems to have spawned deeper reflection after the initial defensive backlash. I’m also encouraged that there are government campaigns that insist that our [their] women are not a tourist attraction–when people ask you what’s so great about Medellín or what you liked about it, please stop talking about how hot the women are. Seriously, think of a better and more respectful answer that doesn’t reflect so poorly on you. Are the women just more beautiful scenery to gaze at? Boosts for your ego? Cheap investments? I’m not so sure that Medellín is quite ready to position itself as a top tourist destination (I feel the same way about Bogotá), but, believe me, it has a lot going on and is headed in what I feel is a very positive direction. Even if you couldn’t help but appreciate the attractiveness of the women in Medellín (even Rihanna did at the World Cup), was there not anything else? Many Medellineans are tired of this shallow characterization of their city (beautiful women and cocaine), and they’re seeing that this kind of publicity makes their city a destination for many unsavory types whose dollars they’d rather not be courting.

I read an article this morning titled Las ‘reinas’ que no quieren cetro y corona (had to look up cetro: scepter) and also found it to be incredibly heartening. When the current governor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo, was mayor of Medellín (2003-2007), he cut off the city’s sponsorship of the beauty pageant part of their annual Feria de las Flores; he also saw to it that Antioquia’s support for the departmental beauty pageant dried up. His wife, Lucrecia Ramírez, a psychiatrist who specializes in body image issues for women, headed these initially controversial initiatives. Many in Medellín’s society apparently had gotten fed up with women only being exalted for their looks, and the profligate amounts of money spent on the contests also caused concern. Then there was the embarrassing fact that the city was quickly becoming almost exclusively associated abroad with drugs and beautiful women. Another person cited the fact that the ubiquity of cosmetic surgery also made these pageants more than a little pointless.

But they didn’t just cut off support and then move on. Instead, they rechanneled those same funds into the creation of a Miss Talented Pageant (Concurso Mujeres Jóvenes Talento), having women compete based on their merits in academic excellence, artistic and athletic skills, and community leadership. Apparently 80 municipalities in the department have replaced their beauty pageants with Miss Talented Pageants. While some ephemeral kind of hope and distraction from the decades of violence and displacement in Antioquia might be found in the glorification of beauty, it’s just sad when you think ab0ut how fleeting, ineffectual, and arbitrary beauty really is. What does it accomplish, again? Whereas the promotion of leadership and skills in youth is the only true hope for any society. I think Medellín’s example here is so awesome that . . . well, I just had to write a blog post about it. Forgive me if Spanish learning is minimal today.

There was one word in the article that got the ball rolling in my mind for this post, though. That word was cosificación.

La psiquiatra había atendido en su consultorio varios casos de jóvenes afectadas por la obsesión de ser delgadas, y había encontrado un efecto claro de los reinados en las mujeres: “la cosificación”, cuando una persona ubica su cuerpo por fuera de sí misma y lo convierte en una cosa, “y como las cosas se venden y se compran, se exhiben, carecen de valor humano, se tiranizan y se modifican al antojo de quien las compre”, dice Ramírez, inevitablemente este efecto baja la autoestima de cualquiera.

The psychiatrist had seen several cases of young women affected by the obsession with being thin, and she witnessed one clear effect of the beauty pageants on women: objectification, which is when a person locates their body as being outside of him- or herself, turning it into an object. “And just like things that are bought and sold, they’re put on display, they lack human value, they’re oppressed, and they’re custom-fitted to please whoever purchases them,” says Ramírez. “This effect would inevitably lower anybody’s self-esteem.”

I didn’t know the word cosificación; to objectify someone is cosificar. In addition to the objectification of women, the terms are also used in the contexts of animals and workers.

Here are the four most talented (and, I would say, beautiful) women in Antioquia in 2014. Each of their stories moved me deeply. And I loved the woman who was certain that it’s only a matter of time until more people tune in to watch this talent pageant than to watch the traditional beauty pageant in Cartagena!

Daniela Guarín, 23 años, ganadora en la categoría Deportes del concurso Mujeres Jóvenes Talento.

Sandra Milena Santa, 22 años, ganadora en la categoría Arte y Cultura del concurso Mujeres Jóvenes Talento.

Ana Milena González, 23 años, ganadora en la categoría Liderazgo Social del concurso Mujeres Jóvenes Talento.

Natalia, 21 años, ganadora en la categoría Excelencia Académica del concurso Mujeres Jóvenes Talento.

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16 responses to “Beautiful women in Medellín

  1. there is more to a woman than beauty that meets the eye

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  2. whatwhileweslept

    This is great!!

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  3. I love this post!!! Keep ’em coming.
    I find it interesting that you can recognize the beauty of all women around the world. Seriously? How could a man or woman not appreciate the beauty of women?! But, it is sad to see how so many women in today’s society are being objectified all over the globe. Its like the media has become a terrible beacon for promoting false images of what true beauty should be for women. I know this might sound a little cursi, but I strongly believe that true beauty comes from within. Personally, I find it VERY attractive for a woman to feel comfortable within her own skin instead of trying to embellish her appearance.
    On a side note, I also find women who possess certain talents irresistible! Have you ever met a female musician, artist, etc. who just seemed to stand out from the ordinary? It is as if they emit a certain “sensuality” and have their own creative style. I dated this one woman a while back who possessed more than just good looks. When we first started dating, I discovered that she was a fine artist. Needless to say, that relationship was intense (in a good a way). Just knowing that she could flawlessly paint me ..um, clothed (if she wanted to) just made her more appealing to me.

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    • Thanks, Floyd!

      Medellín has recently become this hub for young men who work on the internet and want to meet women. The women are beautiful there, but, really? You had to come halfway around the world to meet beautiful women? (Or just to find beautiful women who would give you the time of day?) Personally, I think it’s a sad failure of the imagination to not be able to experience beauty or pleasure everywhere.

      Absolutely- beauty does come from within.

      And definitely with you on the artists and the intensity ;)

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    • I totally agree with what you said above Floyd. Everything and everyone has beauty but many people fail to appreciate it. Great post Vocabat! :)

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  4. That’s a great initiative! People are so much more than how they look.

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    • Yeah- it would be so great if it caught on in other places! It’s so hard to find positive news in the newspaper that it’s almost impossible not to share it when you do :)

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  5. I find all those beauty pageants very annoying, and it is hard to believe that they can be so popular. I have to say, however, that their popularity has decreased tremendously over the years, and probably not just in Colombia. I have not heard anyone talking about them for many years in Colombia, but I have to admit that I don’t go around the country so I don’t know what goes on in many places. I also have the impression that people don’t pay as much attention to them in the US. It’s been a while since I heard of Miss America, although now I do remember that a few months ago there was there was something in the news, about the New York contestant, I think.

    Looking at other sides of the issue, however, what is good for some in bad for others. You might dislike what I am going to say, but this is a relatively easy way for some women to get ahead. With not much intervention on their part, they have this huge advantage over the general population. Genetics did the most difficult part of the job, and they are just taking advantage of it (although they need apply some discipline really make it happen.) Some people are very fast, or strong and they make a career out of it. A lot of people complain of the huge salaries that some professional athletes make. Take that away and many of them will have a hard time making a living. In other words, if you have a special talent that is marketable and you make it work for you then I can’t hold it against you, I might not think that a baseball player does much to earn what they do but that is a battle that I am not going to fight. Football players and boxers earn their money, but I don’t like the fact that they are trashing their bodies in the process of entertaining the crowd; however, they want to do it because of the money potential. A pretty face will get you endorsements first and a better shot at landing a spot on TV, and those women don’t want that opportunity to be taken away. I might have something going for me, but I still have to find it, and it probably won’t get me too far :) In the meantime, I will have to do old-fashioned hard work. Like most people.

    BTW, last I heard, the place that is said to have the prettiest women in Colombia is Cali. Just listen to the letter of some of the most popular bailable songs. Just now, I can think of a few songs. Maybe this changed in recent years?

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    • Interesting points, and I’m totally fine with beauty pageants existing. But let’s not make it such a big deal for women and girls, and let’s not give pageants any state money. Yeah, nobody gives a flying hoot about it in the U.S., at least not in the circles that I run in. And, I’ve heard good things about Cali, but couldn’t swear to it being the city of the most beautiful women.

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      • Agree, no state money. I would prefer for beauty pageants not to exist, but they do… Nobody in my circles in Colombia cares about those either, or at least I have not heard anyone mentioning them in years. About Cali having the most beautiful women, I just mentioned what is embedded in the popular culture in Colombia. Since beauty is a subjective concept, this cannot be true. An even if beauty were not subjective, the idea that one place has a higher proportion of beautiful people than others defies logic, in general terms. As for Cali itself, it used to be a very pleasant and pretty city many years ago. This is no longer the case (I visited Cali about 5 years ago.) I heard that it has improved recently but I am not holding my breath.

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  6. I hit return too soon. In sum, the women are just taking advantage of the market and they are not going too far out of what is deemed acceptable in the process. What is sad is that the market exists.

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