At a busy street corner in La Paz,
a boy is announcing something for sale. It’s not sweets, nor newspapers, nor a
shoeshine but… nose jobs.
In Bolivia, plastic surgery
campaigns are encouraging indigenous people to embrace nose jobs to change
their looks, and apparently with some success.
It is 3pm in the plastic surgeon’s
office and Juan Carlos Calamar, 19, is about to enter the operating theatre.
“I want to have a better image, to
avoid other peoples’ mockery when they make fun of my nose,” he says.
“For me it is something serious.
People discriminate against me a lot ‘there goes the big-nosed’, they say.
Others like me also feel discriminated against,” Juan Carlos says.
For some, such surgery goes against
the whole idea of indigenous pride encouraged by the country’s first indigenous
leader, Evo Morales.
Herrera and his team have operated
on more than five thousand patients
But Juan Carlos, who is of Aymara
origin, rejects this.
“Only the image of my face will
change, my roots, my culture will still be the same,” he says.
“I don’t want to show off about a
pretty new nose, I just want to feel good with myself, increase my self-esteem
and then be able work hard for this country.”
It seems there are quite a lot of
people trying to follow his example, as the waiting room in the clinic is
crowded with patients wanting appointments.
Most of them are of indigenous
origin, Andean Aymara or Quechua.
Cosmetic surgery is seen as luxury
in many countries, but here in Bolivia, one of South America’s poorest
countries, it has become more affordable and widely promoted.
There are even regional advertising
campaigns against what are termed “nose deformities”.
President Evo Morales has promised
indigenous people better lives
For some low-income patients,
surgery is available at reduced cost.
Juan Carlos has paid the equivalent
to $380, a bargain compared to some cosmetic surgery hotspots such as Brazil,
Venezuela and Iran where the average nose job costs $2,000.
“I’ve heard an ad on the radio
about nose surgeries at half-price. I tried to convince my mother but she lacks
the means, she is a street seller. So I came to see the doctor, I had a consultation,
and he said they were going to help me with the costs,” said Juan Carlos.
The idea is to “democratise”
cosmetic surgery, and make it available to many more people in Bolivia, where
the average annual income is about $1,500.