I first learned of Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso (Without Tits There Is No Paradise) over lunch in Envigado.
The story is based on a young girl, Catalina, who lives in Pereira and becomes obsessed with getting breast implants in order to overcome poverty. Catalina decides to become a “prepago” (prepaid), a prostitute who has sex with drug traffickers in exchange for gifts, money and social status. — Wikipedia
While Troy was describing this outlandish premise for a telenovela, I found it hard to believe. He’d seen episodes during a long Latin American bus ride. Ana, being Colombian, confirmed the show, and its popularity.
Before Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso was a telenovela, it was a best-selling novel by Gustavo Bolivar about childhood prostitution in Colombia. It was turned into a TV series which aired from September to October 2006 to record ratings. In 2010, the series was condensed into a movie and released this past September in theaters.
Given everyone seemed to know about this telenovela but me, I figured the movie would be a good opportunity to do some entertainment research. Maybe I’d gain a little extra insight into Colombian culture as a result.
Even though it lacked English subtitles, I felt my Spanish comprehension had improved enough to give me a decent shot at understanding what was going on. Worse case scenario, I’d be watching attractive actresses for an hour and a half.
In actuality, the movie is dialogue-driven, and I missed a lot of details as a result of not understanding the language well enough yet. But at least the major plotlines and changes were evident.
First off, I’d never expect to see a movie like this be popular in the USA. Maybe the closest comparison I can make was the indie flick Kids but that was hardly popular (and in fact just the opposite, controversial), let alone on a mainstream level. In the USA, Friends was the kind of TV series setting record ratings. If Friends is vanilla ice cream, Sin Tetas is rocky road with melted chocolate and arequipe drizzled over it, whip cream and a cherry on top.
One of the biggest shocks for me was the age of Catalina, the main character. She was 14 at the start of the movie, though she celebrates a birthday and thus turns 15. An early scene is of her being gang-raped in a barn by 3 men as she starts on her journey toward making the money needed to buy her breast implants. As her well endowed friends console her the next day in bed, they also give her a much larger wad of pesos than she’d expected to receive. Suddenly, she seemed to perk up. Huh? Really? Yes.
And so the movie continues, with Catalina doing what it takes to get her boobs, including sex with drug traffickers and much older men, including the doctor she’d eventually use. Unfortunately for her, after some good times with her new boobs, they get infected because the doctor implanted “used” implants. Suddenly, the good times for Catalina were coming to an end, and she was not only back to her normal cleavage, but disfigured and in a lot of pain too.
Meanwhile, her mother had been having an affair with Catalina’s boyfriend, and eventually gets pregnant. Catalina’s teenage boyfriend is an assassin, murdering people throughout the movie in drive by shootings.
There’s enough drama to rival any Shakespearean tragedy.
I suppose American soap operas are filled with such craziness as well, but Colombia’s approach seems grittier. Maybe it was because I was watching a movie, where the producers could be more liberal in their storytelling approach than on TV. The consensus from Troy and Ana, with whom I saw the movie, was that the TV series was better.
If you’re living in or visiting Medellin right now, you can still catch it at Centro Comercial de Santa Fe.
The Spanish version of Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso is available on DVD via Amazon.com. The version with English subtitles, which was released in 2009 on DVD is also available, and titled Sin Pechos No Hay Paraiso.
Have you read the book, or seen the series or movie? If yes, leave a comment and let us know what you thought.