Colombia’s sex industry has been thrust into the international spotlight since U.S. Secret Service agents hired 21 prostitutes days ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, but some foreigners go to the country searching for a different kind of relationship.
The Daily, a tablet-only news app, released a report Tuesday on the booming mail-order bride business in Colombia, an industry that until recently was dominated by Southeast Asian and former-Soviet countries.
Well-to-do men, many of them American, pay up to $20,000 to go to Colombia on a”romance tour” promising the opportunity to meet potential future wives — often women hoping to escape financial hardship for a life with better prospects.
The average person in Colombia lives on less than $20 a day. Half the population live in poverty, while 16.6% suffer extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25 a day).
The Daily followed one of these tours, put on by international matchmakers Anastasia Date, which caters to men with hoping to meet Latin women through the website Amo Latina. Clients have everything arranged for them on week-long guided tours, where they can meet upwards of 200 potential partners on a single trip.
“You gents are joining a very select group of guys in society that have not experienced what you are about to experience. You are going into a situation where there’s a very unbalanced ratio of women to men, this happy hunting ground, if you will, this Shangri-La of women,” said Larry Cervantes to The Daily, the company’s public relations director.
The highlight of the tour, according to the company, is a “beauty pageant” where dozens of women, some as young as 18, show off their assets to the eager crowd. Many can speak to their suitors only through translators. A typical tour involves up to 20 clients looking for love.
“80% of the girls are here for money, for opportunities. The girls want to travel, money, clothes, not love,” said Colombian reporter Isabel Ramirez in The Daily’s video.
The $2 billion-a-year arranged marriage industry is sure to grow as sites like Amo Latina continue to attract single men with disposable incomes. Over 12,000 American marriages were brokered by international matchmaking services in 2011 alone.