Cali, the state capital of Valle del Cauca, Colombia, is home to hundreds of plastic surgeons. More people travel to Colombia for operations than anywhere else in the world, the majority of them heading to Cali, and with annual profits of millions of dollars the city has become known as Colombia’s ‘Silicone’ Valley. And it’s not just the foreigners keeping the industry going. Colombia ranks third in the world for the most number of surgeries per capita, and the women of Cali spend a sizable chunk of their income on treatments and procedures to alter and reshape their bodies.
The vast majority of women in Colombia – and especially in Cali, the third largest and the most racially-mixed city – have black or indigenous blood running through their veins. Despite this, the images of female beauty promoted on television programmes, commercials and throughout the pages of glossy magazines tend to be of tall, thin, fine-featured, light-skinned, blonde women. It is precisely this distance between real women and beauty ideals that allows the industry to reap millions of dollars each year by offering the opportunity for an extreme cultural makeover.