Venezuela is a country that’s been known in the past for its immense oil wealth and also, for its obsession with beauty pageants. In the history of the Miss Universe pageant, Miss Venezuela has won a total of seven crowns, the second-highest number of crowns in history, trailing Miss United States by only one crown.
But dreams of winning a coveted crown have been dwindling for many Venezuelan women. With the economic crisis in Venezuela deepening, an estimated 90 percent of Venezuelans are living in poverty. As a result, some Venezuelan women have turned to desperate measures to make ends meet. Women are now traveling to the Colombia-Venezuela border to sell their hair to Colombian salons, making up to $60 for an entire head of hair.
One of these women is Daniela Martínez, a former Venezuelan beauty queen. In 2018, she traveled to the border to sell her long, straight black hair to buy food and medicine for her family.
In this episode of Latino USA, reporter Luis Gallo travels to the Colombian border city of Cúcuta to explore the underground market that’s sprung up in the midst of this crisis: the buying and selling of Venezuelan hair.
Featured image: A woman checks the hair of another woman as she prepares to purchase it to make hair extensions, in Cúcuta, Colombia. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)