Venezuela’s Racist Plastic Surgery

A new anthropological study undertaken by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Lauren Gulbas of Dartmouth College, has been released suggesting that Black, Mestizo and racially mixed women in Venezuela are having plastic surgery in order make themselves appear more White, as a way of bolstering self-esteem.

Written by Chris White

In the new study entitled “Embodying Racism: Race, Rhinoplasty & Self-Esteem in Venezuela”, Gulbas examines how aesthetic ideals promoted by Western fashion industries and supermodels collaborated with local perceptions of race and racial superiority in urban centres such as the capital Caracas, where Western advertising is ubiquitous.

The study consisted of 63 White, Black and racially mixed women, 24 of whom had undergone full rhinoplasty operations and 39 of whom had undergone at least form of nasal surgical procedure.

Of the 39 individuals who had had a nasal surgical procedure, all of them wanted what is known in the Venezuelan cosmetics industry as the ‘la nariz perfilada’ or the “well-formed nose”, typically characterised as slender, tall and Caucasian.

Gulbas’ conclusion was that although the Venezuelan Republic’s official racial policy was one of ‘mestizaje’ or ‘racial mixing’, actual Venezuelan culture prioritises European physical and facial aesthetics above Black and Amerindian.

Writing in her study Gulbas concludes: “Rhinoplasty is offered by physicians and interpreted by patients as a resolution to body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. Patients’ efforts to alter the nose reveal attempts to change not only how the body looks, but how it is lived. As a result, cosmetic surgery only acts as a stop-gap measure to heighten one’s self-esteem and body image.”

The trend towards specifically European orientated ethnocentricity in Latin America’s plastic surgery demands, is a controversial one for Venezuela with its 40% non-White population, with the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez having blamed cosmetic surgeons for pressuring Venezuelan women into undergoing unnecessary and expensive plastic surgery to make them look more European.

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