Of Beasts and Beauty

[ Latin American Studies ]

Of Beasts and Beauty

Gender, Race, and Identity in Colombia

By Michael Edward Stanfield

Here is a detailed investigation of the concept of beauty in Colombia—its cultural and political origins, its expression through fashion and pageants, and its effect on the people of a country plagued by violence, inequality, and corruption.

September 2013


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6 x 9 | 292 pp. | 33 b&w photos, 1 maps, 3 tables

ISBN: 978-1-4773-0222-4

All societies around the world and through time value beauty highly. Tracing the evolutions of the Colombian standards of beauty since 1845, Michael Edward Stanfield explores their significance to and symbiotic relationship with violence and inequality in the country. Arguing that beauty holds not only social power but also economic and political power, he positions it as a pacific and inclusive influence in a country “ripped apart by violence, private armies, seizures of land, and abuse of governmental authority, one hoping that female beauty could save it from the ravages of the male beast.” One specific means of obscuring those harsh realities is the beauty pageant, of which Colombia has over 300 per year. Stanfield investigates the ways in which these pageants reveal the effects of European modernity and notions of ethnicity on Colombian women, and how beauty for Colombians has become an external representation of order and morality that can counter the pathological effects of violence, inequality, and exclusion in their country.



Chapter 1: Setting

Chapter 2: “La mujer reina pero no gobierna,” 1845–1885

Chapter 3: Bicycle Race, 1885–1914

Chapter 4: Apparent Modernity, 1914–1929

Chapter 5: Liberal Beauty, 1930–1948

Chapter 6: Exclusive Beasts, 1948–1958

Chapter 7: From Miss Universe to the Anti-Reina, 1958–1968

Chapter 8: Static Government, Social Evolution, 1968–1979

Chapter 9: Pulchritude, the Palacio, and Power, 1979–1985

Conclusion and Epilogue to 2011


Selected Bibliography


Stanfield is Professor of History at the University of San Francisco and author of two other books, including Red Rubber, Bleeding Trees: Violence, Slavery, and Empire in Northwest Amazonia, 1850–1933.

“A fresh and uniquely insightful interpretation of Colombian culture and nationalism that is bound to capture the attention of scholars not just of Colombia but also of Latin America and the United States. . . . The addition of this book . . . represents a major breakthrough in the acknowledgment of Colombia’s important place among Latin American nations.”
—Jane M. Rausch, Professor Emerita of History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

"The book is successful as an overview of the nation's history, society, and the development of beauty pageants within its borders, and it provides a rich, well-written narrative that is enjoyable to read and full of interesting insights into Colombian culture….Summing Up: Recommended"
Choice magazine