01/ 18/ 16

What Colombian Culture Taught Me About Being a Woman

Katerina in Colombia

One of the first things I noticed on Day 1 of exploring Cartagena, Colombia was how voluptuous every single store mannequin was. Pear-shaped booty, overflowing breasts, and a teeny-tiny waist — Sofia Vergara replicated in a plastic shell.

This is undoubtedly linked to the cosmetic obsession of Colombian culture. Colombia is ranked the 8th top country for plastic surgery, and breast augmentations have become so popular in Medellín that it’s nicknamed “Silicone Valley.” The Atlantic coins the buxom look, “narco-estética.”

This doesn’t particularly disturb me — The United States reigns as the Land of Superficiality so I am, unfortunately, attune to unrealistic expectations of women’s beauty.

Cartagena Street Art

But, what intrigued me far more than the curvaceous Colombian mannequins was the overwhelming confidence of Colombian women — no matter what shape or size.

As I walked around the discotheques of Barranquilla, blown away by salsa music so loud I was certain of permanent damage to my ear-drums, I was enthralled by what I saw. Some women with J-Lo butts and Coke-bottle curves, yes, but more women with muffin tops and thunder thighs — absolutely KILLIN’ IT on the dance floor.

The best part of it all? They were dressed in sheer tops and skin-tight skirts, midriff rolls galore. Uninhibited and fearless. Real women with real bodies, who don’t give a damn about what they’re “supposed” to look like, as dictated by “conventional” Colombian culture.

Cartagena Mural

So here’s what Colombian culture taught me about being a woman: The most appealing asset you can possess is confidence, not curves.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve changed out of a crop-top to something more conservative because I felt insecure about my body. Now, I vow not to give a damn! Don’t get me wrong — you should never feel uncomfortable about what you’re wearing. But if you’re uncomfortable because you’re worried about how others will perceive you? To that, I say, “haters gonna hate.” You should wear whatever the hell makes you happy. 

Colombia is a beautiful place. I find myself reminiscing about its delicious plato tipico — deep-fried fish with a side of coco rice, veggies, and plantains. About Cartagena’s historic old town, a colorful city center so charming you’d think you were in the heart of Italy. But mostly, I find myself inspired by its women, and how they know they’re entitled to be who they want to be.

What Colombian Culture Taught Me About Being a Woman

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Photo of Katerina Jeng, author at Scratch The List

Hello! I'm Katerina, and I'm on a quest to complete my bucket list. Follow along for travel stories, happiness tips, and inspiration to make your life worthy of your dreams.

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