18 September 2010 - 21:18

TEHRAN, Sept. 18 (MNA) -- “It made my Inca features stand out too much,” said a man from Guayaquil, Ecuador, now an illegal alien in Madrid.

Like so many others, he decided to get a rhinoplasty, the “star surgical procedure” like it is usually defined among the hundreds of thousands who seek a kinder horizon for their lives.

Away from their motherland. Away from their identity. The idea is to be Westernized, whatever it takes. Seeking new features. Doing piecework for thousands of hours to be able to pay, euro after euro, the cost of an operation that has been showing a surprising growing curve in the aesthetic, plastic, and reconstructive surgery societies of many countries of the old continent for some time now.

Nobody makes a decision like this gratuitously. Each one of these migrants has endured cruel processes of discrimination for a very long time. Processes of rejection and persecution. Being different sometimes means paying a very high price: the access to a job or to human relationships is generally measured by these strange standards. And people end up paying devastating costs in order to feel accepted by those others who value people according to standardized and plainly Western beauty standards. Costs that not only imply the mockery of a scalpel on one’s own skin, but, on top of everything, mean the surrendering of one’s own historical origins. Costs that are paid by men and women who have come from thousands of kilometers away, from the old colonies dominated by the rich and invincible Europe of other times but that, still today, continues to dictate the models one must follow. A Europe that still flaunts riches before the desperate eyes of the Earth’s deprived.

The shape of our nose is perhaps the feature that best defines our ethnic origin. “It is a way of adapting to the environment in which they live,” comments a plastic surgeon from Valencia, seriously and without a shade of doubt. And this attempt to adapt to the environment results in rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty, which is the surgery that is mainly undergone by Asian immigrants who have decided to Westernize their eyes.

Europe was not the first one to witness this tendency, though. Like so many other times in its history, the United States was a pioneer in gathering Asians willing to give up their slanted eyes and Arabs who have decided to transform the shape of their noses.

After all, medicine is not only intended to cure or heal people suffering from preventable -- and not so preventable -- ailments. Medicine has also been a specialist, throughout the history of humanity, in outlining plans of ethnical standardization, on the one hand, and formidable economic profit on the other. This science, born at the beginning of humankind as a healing path tied to the intentions of the gods, is perfectly aware -- and has been for a long time -- of the vileness of those who have wanted -- and still want to -- use it for other purposes. This is a road that was led by doctors such as Josef Mengele, a master in experimenting with the broken-down bodies of millions of people persecuted by Nazism. Today we stand far from the medical precepts of French doctors Berard and Gubler, who, at the end of the 19th century, affirmed that the role of medicine was to “few times cure, alleviate often, and always console.”

Richard Herrera, a plastic surgeon, is leading these days the promotion of operations on Bolivians determined to modify the aquiline and prominent noses typical of the Andean peoples. “To embellish yourself” is the challenge. To leave behind this typical feature of some native communities.

“I do it to improve my face, to avoid hearing the humiliations of those who tell me ‘your nose is like a parrot’s,’” young Juan Carlos Calamar from La Paz told a BBC reporter. “I decided to do it because I heard an ad on the radio offering nose surgery at half price. I did not have money but I came down and the doctor told me that the cost was 2800 bolivianos (about 400 dollars). My mum lent me the money, she is a street vendor in the city,” said Juan Carlos, with his 19 years of age and the dream of not experiencing discrimination in his own country anymore.

Herrera’s clinic invites the Bolivian to correct “nose deformities” with what he calls a “surgical package”. And he promotes the idea of “democratizing” these procedures that have already been taken -- according to Herrera himself -- by about 5000 people in that country.

Galeano once said that only the poor are destined to be ugly and old. Everyone else can afford to buy the hair, noses, eyelids, lips, cheek bones, breasts, bellies, buttocks, thighs, or shins they might need in order to correct nature. And, if not, there will surely be some Richard Herrera willing to offer a discount.

The little cholitas from El Alto learnt it when they were very young, as they walked among supermarket shelves, or squashed their noses against the window of a toy store packed with tall, blond, straight-haired dolls. This is the model shown by the system’s mirror, in which they are forced to look and which is imposed as a foreign, unreachable dream.

Evo Morales proclaims his people’s pride against all the Richard Herreras willing to crush it. From its deepest guts, Latin Americans are pushing to emerge from the oppression of the powerful ones, eternally willing to submit and placate any signs of identity pride. Even in their own land. Even in their own continent. The one that is screaming with drowned out words from Ecuadorian Jorge Enrique Adoum: “Isn’t it mine, though, the place where I’ve been killed so much?”

The Spanish language original version of this article can be viewed at the website www.pelotadetrapo.org.ar.

(Sept. 19 Tehran Times Perspective Column, by Claudia Rafael)


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