Maria Cristina Caballero at PostGlobal

Maria Cristina Caballero

Bogota, Colombia

Maria Cristina Caballero was Director of Investigations at Semana, Colombia's main weekly news magazine, from (1998-2001). Previously she was also editor of investigations at Cambio news-magazine and El Tiempo, Colombia's main daily paper. She is currently a Fellow at Harvard University's Center for Public Leadership. She completed a master's degree in public administration at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Previously, Caballero completed a Communications and Journalism degree at Colombia's Javeriana University.Caballero was a 1993 Alfred Friendly Press Fellow at Time magazine's Washington, D.C. Bureau (a working fellowship) and a 1997 Lucius W. Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Caballero won a 1998 Simon Bolivar National Prize in Journalism (the Colombian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize) for her exclusive interview with Carlos Castano, leader of Colombia's paramilitaries. She won the same award in 1991 for a series of investigative reports regarding corruption at Colombia's National Property Institute. Caballero also received the 1990 Inter American Press Association Human Rights Award. In 1999, she won a World Press Freedom Award from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, "In recognition of her commitment to the defense of press freedom in Colombia and throughout the world." Her articles and editorials about Latin American and human rights issues, the situation of countries in conflict, press freedom issues, and gender issues have appeared in, among others, Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, CNN Interactive, the International Herald Tribune and the Miami Herald. While at the Center for Public Leadership, Caballero plans to write about the leadership challenges facing Colombia and other Latin American countries. Close.

Maria Cristina Caballero

Bogota, Colombia

Maria Cristina Caballero was Director of Investigations at Semana, Colombia's main weekly news magazine, from (1998-2001). Previously she was also editor of investigations at Cambio news-magazine and El Tiempo, Colombia's main daily paper. more »

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Beauty Contests and Busts

To have a sexy body has become such an obsession in Colombia that it was even recently presented a TV series entitled "Sin tetas no hay Paraiso." (Translation: "Without 'big-boobs' there is no paradise.") The series -- which according to local media got good ratings -- pointed out the importance of having good-size breasts to succeed.

Many Colombians certainly seem to be quite obsessed not only with their body image -- but with the beauty contests.

In my country apparently every town, city and state annually organizes it's own big or small beauty contest. Also many agricultural products' producers (of coffee, sugar, etc.)name their own beauty queen who is regularly invited to their events -- as an attraction.

A number of Colombian news-programs' directors give priority to hire former beauty queens to present the news or segments of the newscasts during which the legs or breasts of the presenter suddenly become the focus of the cameras.

The persistent media images of beauty contests and/or women in bikinis being applauded or discarded by the judges and the public, certainly has an impact in young women who are naturally defining their values and priorities. I have shockingly seen primary schools and high schools promoting distorted values: Some of them just organize their own beauty contests.

The national beauty contest that takes place every year in November in Cartagena (the Colombian Caribbean) is usually excessively covered by national TV programs, and practically every media. Generally more than 400 journalists register to follow the candidates.

Then, images of women very lightly dressed practically invade the media. Photos of the young and voluminous queens constantly appear -- even in the front pages of the so-called "serious media" which usually send several correspondent to Cartagena.

To me it is denigrating to see the obvious exploitation of the bodies of young women for marketing purposes. Those bodies sadly become instruments to sell papers and magazines -- and to "improve" failing TV ratings.

There should be international laws promoted to protect the women from such emotionally demeaning coverage and messages. An organization like UNIFEM, the United Nations Fund for Women, could certainly lead a campaign toward a more dignifying treatment of women by the media. International and national associations -- which consider themselves as serious -- could also do their part.

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