The Cult Of El Culo Colombiano

Known primarily for it's cocaine production and FARC Guerillas, Colombia is a country always on the edge. And it is also obsessed with arse. Here's why...
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Known primarily for it's cocaine production and FARC Guerillas, Colombia is a country always on the edge. And it is also obsessed with arse. Here's why...

Colombia is a country that has not caused many international ripples - or at least not the kind its general population would wish for. As it begins to emerge from the narco-cloud that has overshadowed it for so long, Colombia´s reputation is slowly brightening  - and rightly so! This is a land built upon natural resources far more splendid than boring old gold, coffee or cocaine.

Living in Bogota there are two ever-present entities; firstly you are surrounded by mountains, and secondly, there’s the bottoms. And not just any bottoms. Colombia is a non-stop Sir-Mix-A-Lot video, the land of the truly GIANT peaches.

Colombia’s most renowned artistic export  - besides Shakira - is the painter and sculptor Botero,  famed for his depictions of large (bottomed) ladies. Proudly displayed all over the country, his work is particularly eye-catching in the park dedicated to it in his native Medellin. The characters he portrays are all unashamedly XXL; especially, of course, the females and  their buttocks. The male figures and their genitals seem to have drawn the short straw, although this is perhaps compensated for by the fact that those members which hang low enough to be handled are polished golden from visitors’ ´lucky fondles´.

Throughout his work, Botero displays his country’s largest assets with relish. We shall explore the reason for this Colombian phenomenon here. And be it indigenous heritage, genetic diversity, national diet, ´narco beauty´ or simply life imitating Botero art, we shall get to the bottom of the cult of El Culo . Believe me, Shakira is just the tip of the assberg.

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Colombia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Its rich history of Arabic, African, Spanish and other exstranjero´s mixing it up with indigenous people has led to a plethora of genetic types which are all nonetheless Colombian.

It is also a country of regional divides and classifications. The people of Medellin (Paisas), Barrenquilla (Costeños), Cali (Caleños) and all other areas have particular names (see brackets), characteristics and reputations. The Piasas from Medellin for example are known for their sharp business acumen and enthusiasm for a fiesta. The Rollos from Bogota are less extravagant and consider themselves more sophisticated than their Paisa cousins in the country’s second-largest (but considerably smaller) city.

The classification process is complex. It is partly hereditary, and partly geographical, but there are also, broadly speaking, noticeable physical differences. The women of Medellin tend to be raven haired, noble, intensely sexy and buxom  (think-Zeta Jones). In Barranquilla there´s a markedly more Arabic influence; slim featured with infinite, mysterious eyes (Pocahontas). And in Cali, the home of Colombian Salsa music, women are more leggy and extravagant, dark and glamorous (Lopez).

All these different physical and cultural types (and plenty more) come together in the melting pot of Bogota, the capital. Living in Bogota and walking its streets one can´t help but notice the commonality between the women, no matter from which region they hail. The likelihood is they will all have a fantastic booty. Prominent, pert, protruding, preposterous in some cases, but fantastic to behold.  Joyous, juicy, jaw-dropping and occasionally nigh on impossible to take your eyes off. Even my mother on a recent visit found herself gawping in helpless awe at a couple of particularly well presented specimens.

Colombian women celebrate el culo like a baker with a prize bun

Colombian women celebrate el culo like a baker with a prize bun; wrap it in cling-film and stick it in the shop window (sadly it’s not actual cling-film but denim so delightfully flimsy as to be comparable. Skin-tight jeans never fitted their job description with such admirable tightness).

A generously rounded bottom is a highly-prized commodity. Shop windows are given over to torso-less mannequins; buxom rows of pert, denim-clad bottoms beam their gospel street-wards. A little tummy is by no means frowned upon by most Colombian chicas, as long as it’s sufficiently ballasted behind. Personally I can only applaud this healthy alternative to the European skinny-body ideal.

So what part does diet play in the formation of these forms? Although the national dishes are mainly fried and carb-heavy, the national obesity level is not high. I reckon it comes down to two factors.  Firstly, lunch, not dinner, is the main meal of the day, and second, dancing is the national pastime; more on which later.

Back to the booty. There is a flip-side to this backside obsession. What of the women not naturally blessed? For those lacking enough bounce to the ounce in the rump-shaking department, there exists a remedy little-known or desired by the women back home. Butt implants.

Every woman I’ve encountered who’s enhanced her ass – and there’ve been a few – told me she wanted her clothes to fit snugly

Every woman I’ve encountered who’s enhanced her ass – and there’ve been a few – told me she wanted her clothes to fit snugly, or she wanted to get noticed. But it is symptomatic in general of the Colombian trend for narco-beauty. Narco-beauty is a consequence of Pablo Escobar and other drug cartels whose huge imported sums of money created a demand for cosmetically enhanced women, who conformed to the coke lords’ swollen sexual ideals. A booming plastic surgery industry grew from this, meaning procedures are now commonplace and cost a quarter of the equivalent operation in Europe.

Soho Magazine is the country’s leading publication and its history and content are similar to Britain’s Loaded. Their covers always feature semi-naked women, with the recent exception of a fully-naked Tino Asprilla. With a national circulation of over a million copies and editions published in several other Latin countries, they  - along with advertisements for Colombia’s most popular beer (see: Chicas de Aguila) – are the chief promoters of this rump asset.

I asked their photo editor, Alejandra Quintero, about Colombia’s perception of its own beauty. She agreed that despite the gradual shift of perceptions and a national sense of shame concerning its own recent reputation, narco-beauty and its physical ideals are still ingrained in the public conscious. She expressed the need for real, natural women to be represented in the national media.

Whether real or plasticos, there is nowhere los culos express themselves more freely than la rumba. Colombian dance culture is almost entirely booty driven; Salsa, regatton, champeta, cumbia, are all basically an exercise in flaunting what ya mama (or your surgeon) gave ya, in outrageous rhythmical fashion. There´s nowt quite like a ruma, and long may they reign!

All of this big booty-shaking is nothing new. Pre-Colombian art dating back several hundred years includes clay figures of indigenous women with extremely rotund breasts and bottoms. Rather, it is an ongoing appreciation; celebrated by Botero, inflated by 90s cocaine culture and perpetuated in modern culture and media.

Will the phenomenon continue to expand, or has it, as Alejandra hopes, reached its peak?  Colombia is rapidly changing in terms of culture and infrastructure, but changing national attitudes and mindsets takes time. I don´t know for sure what the future holds for Colombia’s bottoms, but I shall observe with an interested eye.

What I do know is this: I left a country obsessed by its damp climate to live in a country obsessed by its big bottoms. If a nation must have an obsession, el culo kicks the shipping forecast’s arse.