Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Tag

Looking For Love In Latin America: Introduction/Marriage Agencies   Leave a comment

On New Year’s Eve I ran into a woman that runs a local matrimonial agency.  I had just come from the home of fiends.  She had just come from a party at the Hotel de Prado.  I have to put that on my list of possibilities for New Year’s next year.  From the looks of people leaving the hotel they had fun.   We exchanged numbers, vowing to go to get-together.  So when on one of my walk/jogs, Barranquilla sidewalks are great exercise because they are uneven, I found myself close to her office and dropped by.

Yami runs the Barranquilla office for A Foreign Affair (AFA), a well-established player in the business of bringing American men to foreign countries to find wives, or whatever.  After about two minutes of pleasantries, the question came.  Do you have a girlfriend?  I was not put off by the question.  I kind of expected it.  Truthfully, I had no knowledge of introduction agencies until I started coming to Colombia about three years ago.  I mean, I had heard of mail order brides.  In fact, when working in Philly I met a faculty member that had ordered himself one from China.  But that was more than twenty years ago.  It was during a visit to Manizales that the then owner of Manizales Cupido tried to get me interested in becoming a client of his agency.  Though I did not join, he did make me curious.  Who uses these services?  And why?   Are these guys desperate?  Are the women?

Last year, while looking for the answers to these questions, I saw Lisa Ling’s report, “Online Brides” on Our America.  An AFA tour to Barranquilla was the subject of her story.  Her story focused on one particular young woman.  Her interviews gave depth to the hopes and dreams of men and women looking for love and stability on foreign shores.  So, I decided to see for myself.  And if I met someone great fine!  After calling their corporate office, AFA is based in Phoenix, Arizona, I arranged for a rate reduction because I did not need the hotel.  I was living in Barranquilla during the time of their next tour.  That is how I met Yami, who was now very curious about my relationship status.

What I have come to learn is that these agencies are largely unregulated.  The screening of participants can be as stringent as interviews and reference checks or as lax as anyone who walks in the door can participate.  Because of two cases involving foreign women brought to the United States as potential brides, but eventually murdered, some agencies advertise their compliance with the International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 (IMBR).  They conduct background checks on men who seek to use their services to meet women.   AFA is one of them, even though they seem to regard the Act as something which will “…make it somewhat more cumbersome for you to make initial contact with foreign women.”  This statement comes from their website.

There are at least five Introduction/Marriage agencies operating in coastal Colombia: Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Cartagena.  Their fees can range from $595 to $1795, airfare excluded.  AFA is a worldwide introduction/marriage agency.  To travel to other parts of the world, including Costa Rica, Philippines, China and the Ukraine their costs can get close to $3000, again airfare not included.  Some agencies will also arrange for individual introductions for those men willing to pay the fee for the added attention. 

AFA does not lie though when they say that they will have lots of women at their events.  Principally consisting of two socials, and three side trips, the first evening there were over seventy women there.  The next evening there were almost ninety.  I learned later, though, that the ways they get women there can be a bit scheming.  Kellie, a 30 year old Barranquilla woman, with no children, shared with me her felling about the whole affair.  She had attended three AFA tour events.  The first time, she says, was to know what was possible.  The second time they called saying that there was a guy that had traveled to Colombia wanting to meet her.  Later, she said, she found that was not true.  The third time they had friends convinced her to come.  And that was when we met.

Throw out the image of desperate losers looking for beautiful poor women to do their bidding.  On the AFA tour I attended there were businessmen, a postal worker, an attorney, a doctor, an IT expert and other professions represented.  They came to Colombia from as far away as Seattle.  In my mind these guys had choices.  Yet, there was an air of disappointment in the group.  No one said it aloud.  But it was there.  We found, after asking about certain women, that the AFA website is padded with women who are no longer participating in their events.  Their online tour orientation, which was terrible both technologically and content wise, had a “come and get it” tone to it, as if one was being affirmed for joining the Latina nookie club.  Confirmed by the sexual overtone that exists on their website.    Regardless of what they say ahead of time, one should know that there is no guarantee that anyone in the room will be interesting to you, or interested in you.  You pay your money and take your chances that someone in the sea of faces will be the one.  Or if you are just there hoping that you will get laid by some hot Latina the tours have that potential also.  According to Kellie and others, it happens.

Introductions are big business, and AFA has their formula down to a science.  Though to most of us their events were a bit like organized chaos. Their format, for which neither I nor the guys I talked with felt prepared, was a combination of speed dating, interviewing and the getting third degree. We were assigned an interpreter to help us overcome the language barrier; introduced to the throng of women in the room; and then given about 15 minutes to meet between eight and ten woman seated at a round table.  Some of whom say no potential in any of us.  Some of whom were seriously looking for a life partner.  Some of whom, it was obvious, were just there for the dinner.  I can only imagine how the two hour round robin, tell a stranger about yourself in an attempt to make a life-long love connection before dinner is served made them feel.  Kellie confided that she felt like she was selling herself.   There is a lot of competition between women she said.  “Many women are hoping for one man.  No one has time to know the other person sincerely. There is no time to know what we had in common.  It is like you need to be perfect.  The man looking for a perfect woman and women feeling like they have to show that they are perfect, in fifteen minutes.”

My belief is that AFA, and others, do indeed play on the potential that a relationship with a foreign man will improve these women’s lives.  But for the most part the image of women seeking visas and sugar daddies is not true.  Latin America is a machista culture.  In general, women depend on men for economic and emotional stability.  That is just the way they roll here.  Economics, family and religion can drive relationship decisions.  Practical decisions about what type of life that can be lived can take a back seat to the fairy tales of falling in love and living happily ever after that we are bottle fed in the United States.

To answer Yami’s question.  No I do not have a girlfriend.  I did make a great friend though.  Melissa (see her and I on left, hanging out), my tour interpreter, a great young lady working her way through college, has been my Spanish tutor and friend since the tour.  It was actually from Melissa’s family’s home I was coming when I ran into Yami on New Year’s Eve.  For many reasons, I am resistant to the see one, choose one and marry one format that one seemingly needs to have to make the most of an Introduction/Marriage agency.  Some of my Latina friends have accused me of playing or taking too much time to make a simplistic decision.  Maybe there is some truth to both.  In my own defense, I have always made decisions from my brain, always trying to do the right thing.  For perhaps the first time in my life I am going to follow my heart’s desire -wherever that may lead.

Posted January 17, 2012 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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Six Tips for Successfully Using International Online Dating Sites: Part 1   Leave a comment

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of online dating sites appealing to people who want to date, marry or whatever with people from other cultures, countries and persuasions. Each has their flavor; their following; and their own fee structures. Across the globe, there are hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, on these sites looking for romance, marriage or whatever. I have used some of these sites and met some wonderful people. Some of whom are still in my life, as friends. I have also found some pretty crazy and manipulative individuals who find lying, stealing and jumping into your bed as easy as breathing. There are few rules and almost no police to govern abuses, before or after a meeting occurs. Whatever happens, happens! So, the first advice is to be careful – always. These sites have given me a short cut to meeting people, learning Spanish and looking for business opportunities. I have paid the “learner’s tax” and offer some tips to increase your opportunities for success.

Narrow your choices before you begin

Online dating internationally is a very different playing field from online dating in one’s own country. Knowing why you want to be with someone from another part of the world is really critical. Ask yourself that question. And have an answer that makes sense. You are likely to find that someplace along the way, if someone has interest in you, they will ask the reason you are traveling thousands of miles from home to meet someone when there are available folks in your hometown. What is it about that culture? Are your fantasies just that, fantasies? What do you know about their religion and its effect on people’s attitudes and values? Knowing where you want your new love to be from and why is critical to making good decisions. If you have decided on a country, do you know that each part has its own culture? There is a real difference between Costenas (people who live on the coast of Colombia) and Paisas (people who live in the interior). San Jose, Costa Rica is home to Nicaraguans, Colombians, Costa Ricans and a host of other different Latin cultures? Identify the part of the world that you want your mate to come from then do your homework. Know who lives there. Online dating, internationally, means that you are seeking a relationship in a culture that you do not know. Most likely language will be different. Values will be different. The meaning of things is different. Find the online dating site or sites that offer thumbnails, no matter how brief, to the people you want to meet. The only way to make sure your investment of time, energy and money is going to bear fruit is to make sure that someone from this part of the world fits your life, your values and is likely to bring you the happiness you seek.

Beware hidden costs and people who pad their lists

The cost of online dating sites can be relatively inexpensive. But this can also be a lure to get you in the door. This a multi-billion dollar business for a reason. That is why many sites show the young, beautiful men and women (sometimes in very suggestive poses) on their home pages. Remember there is no guarantee that the people they are showing as being members actually are available. I had one agency tell me, “Oh, we need to remove her photo, she has not been around for more than a year.” Remember, they are selling the fantasy. Before deciding, know what you are going to pay and for what period of time your membership will allow you to participate. Some sites charge for everything from sending an email message to sending a letter to sending gifts/flowers to their translation services to selling lists of people who they say are interested in you. These charges can add up. Unfortunately, some online sites/agencies will pay or urge people to write to you generating business for them. So, if you write, pay for translation services and send something then the interest suddenly goes away you know you have been had.

Know who you want in your life

Let’s say that you have decided on the city or region of the world you want your new love, friend of whatever to come from. And you have decided on one or more online sites to use. The next step is to have a sense of who you are looking for. What are their qualities? What do they look like? How old do you want them to be? Education? Children? Make a list. Dream a little. You will likely find that, if you have some of the basic stuff going for you – good manners, a job or income, are decently groomed, have good hygiene, and a desire to learn another culture – you will have choices available to you that did not exist before. Having said that – be realistic. A 65 year old man receiving only social security will probably have a different appeal than a 65 year old rich dude. A 45 year old with all the basic stuff, and a treat a woman right attitude, may find himself with the hottest 22 year old woman he has ever met. Regardless of the job he holds. Don’t get dazzled by the people who say they are interested in you. Remember, there are thousands of people just like you trying to get the attention of the person they think they like or want. And some of them are likely to want to get with the same person you do. Getting someone’s attention, and keeping it, establishing a connection, so that they keep talking with you is critical. There are internet sites out here to help you write a great profile, ad, or introduction letter. Use them, their helpful hints work. Do not be daunted when a person of interest loses interest in you. And do not hesitate to move on if you lose interest. This is where the sheer volume of the people on these sites will help. It may take months. It may take years. Be patient. Good things do come to those who are diligent. And remember, meeting online is just the start of the dance. There is more, way more, to do before going to the altar.

Posted August 31, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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