iStockphotoWhile Russia was considered the ingénue of the mail order bride business in the 90's with its Ukrainian Barbie dolls, it seems that today American men, like birds in winter, are going south to look for love. South America that is.
Home to the most beautiful women
Russian-American marriage agency Anastasia International, with a business that spans Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, traveled to Colombia two years ago to see first-hand if the women lived up to the beauty hype. As it turns out, the locals from the country that gave us Sofia Vergara and a Miss Universe, pointed the company to Medellín. According to Larry Cervantes, managing editor of Anastasia International, the city quickly became a popular destination, and their AmoLatina site had an overwhelming response from American men.
The company says that the success of their Medellín tours (there are now also tours to Cali and Bogota) wasn't just due to the beautiful women, though. "There is a culture of matchmaking and bridal agencies all over the city," says Cervantes of the social factors involved. "This is also a city with a reputation for having a disproportionate ratio of women to men." According to Antioquia's State Press Secretary, Rafael Restrepo Aramburo, there are 20% more women than men between the ages of 20 and 54, making it very difficult for ladies of suitable age to find a husband.
Journalist Harmon Leon, who actually participated in one of AmoLatina.com's tours, gave a first-person account to The San Francisco Chronicle and the Huffington Post, and is a bit more cynical of this business of love. "These women are basically searching for a better life outside of their country. They want money and travel, but not necessarily love," says Leon. Cervantes would argue that both parties know why they're there. "Their motives range from curiosity to searching for a more traditional woman to marry."
En español: AmoLatina's beauty pageant showcases "brides" for clients
Latin America: An emerging market?
International marriage agencies like AmoLatina claim services are offered strictly as a means of matchmaking, however, some like Leon doubt their effectiveness. "These are businesses that rely on the promise of love to sell happiness," says Leon, who found that a cultural gap between the men and women actually hampered communication.
While it remains to be seen whether Latin America will become the new leader in the market, Cervantes credits Colombia's convenient geographic location and a fusion of cultures for the success. With the world getting smaller, Anastasia's customers are looking to countries like Colombia for their brides. "While European men find South American women exotic, their American counterparts find a more comfortable familiarity in the fact that these ladies are Latin," says Cervantes.