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Blonde hair in South America - Is it Safe for a Female?

Explore the safety of traveling in South America with blonde hair as a female. Get tips, insights, and debunk myths in this essential read for travelers.

Tobi Miles
July 1, 2022
Blonde hair in South America - Is it Safe for a Female?

Blonde Hair in South America? Is it Common? Is it safe? So in most people's mind's a stereotypical South America, is brown eyed, black haired with a bronzed completion. This is true for the most part but can there really be Blonde haired, blue eyed South Americans? Is it common? I'm not talking about someone from a Scandinavian country, like Sweden who's parent's moved to South America. I'm referring to everyone else in the persons family is Stereotypical latino except for one person!

My thought process first started to comprehend this question, when i was a young child and introduced to my Italian uncle, who head a full head of ginger hair and a very pale complexion. Back then to me it was very strange as I am half Italian so was quite tanned in complexion compared with the rest of the Italian family being also dark. So what's the deal?

While, Back to the latino Americans, in turns out it is very possible for a Latin America to have blonde hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.

By Pja25 via Wikimendia Common

According to these are called "European or white Latin Americans"...Who would have figured?

In fact these Latin Americans who are considered white,  is typically due to European descent many years ago! It is well known that alot of Latin America was colonised by Spanish and the Portuguese, hence the lingo! The Spanish and Portuguese were the earliest settlers followed by the Italians, germans and the levantines (region in Asia).

Then cam along the Polish, the British, the French, Russians, Belgians, Dutch, Scandinavians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Croatians, Swiss, Greeks....the list goes on!  As with any groups of peoples in one place expect alot of procreation and good times! It's not all war's & empires eh!  So you shouldn't be surprised to see the odd few blondies popping up in the gene pool later generations down the line, like my ginger haired Italian uncle! Who perhaps is the manifestation of racial gene from Scandinavian or Scottish descent.

According to a study by the world ethnic group around 33% to 36% of the population as of 2010, were so called  "White Latin Americans" which constitutes as  the largest racial-ethnic group in the region. However, it should be noted that "White" as self-identification is common for many Latin Americans in national censuses. According to a survey conducted by Cohesión Social in Latin America, conducted on a sample of 10,000 people from seven countries of the region, 34% of those interviewed identified themselves as white

Supermodel Gisele Bündhen Brazilian with german descent | By Sebástian Freire via Wikimedia Commons

However, in terms of those with the classic blue eyes and blonde hair that figure is much smaller.

According to a Chilean Census,  Only 9.6% of lower-class girls have light-colored eyes—either green or blue. However,  31.6% of upper-middle class girls have such eyes.

Blonde hair is present in 2.2% and 21.3%, of lower-class and upper-middle girls respectively whilst black hair is more common among lower-class girls (24.5%) than upper-middle class ones (9.0%).

So from the study, it's clear to see that the percentage is small but also, there is a class difference! With only a small percentage of lower class girls having blue eyes and blonde hair compared to Upper middle class girls. The reasons are varied and many which i won't go into in this article, if you would like to read more on this see one of our article source. Wiki

What determines whether someone has Blue eyes or Brown Eyes? - The Science bit.

Eye Color is located on Chromosome 15 and there are 3 main GENO-TYPES that determine Either, AA (brown or hazel) , AG (brown or hazel) and GG (blue or green). Eye Color is also associated with specific Y-DNA & mtDNA HAPLOGROUPS.

According to UCLA Eye Research (2014/2015)  revealed that People with Brown Eyes, All actually have BLUE eyes underneath, when you remove the Brown Pigment!

Blue, brown eye chromosome determination.

According to another study, this one by the University of Copenhagen

"Everyone in the world who has blue eyes shares one single common ancestor, who lived between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, and that the blue eyes were caused by a genetic mutation in this one ancestor."

This the genetic mutation, which they called "the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans alive on the planet today". The research group, have examined for over 10 years!  Comparing the eye colour of blue-eyed people in a number of countries including Denmark and Turkey.

The Even bigger science bit! - Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes in South America.

In a statement,Professor Eiberg said:

"A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a 'switch', which literally 'turned off' the ability to produce brown eyes,"

The statement goes on to explain: "The OCA2 gene codes for the so-called P protein, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to our hair, eyes and skin. The 'switch', which is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 does not, however, turn off the gene entirely, but rather limits its action to reducing the production of melanin in the iris - effectively 'diluting' brown eyes to blue." The OCA2 gene was not totally turned off or destroyed though, otherwise we wouldn't have any melanin in our hair, eyes or skin, which is known as albinism. Albino's for everyone else!

Is it safe to travel in South America as a Women with Blonde hair, blue eyes?

As the first study showed although blonde hair, blue eyes is not the majority of people there are actually natives with this hair color, eye color and pigmentation! So it's not something they have not seen before, I believe this question generally has an underlining meaning. Which is,  "Will my bright hair make me stand out while traveling and thus more likely a target for harassment or crime. " Most of my female friends who have backpacked south america solo have never really experienced any more targeting than other tourists! However, here is some quick advice and info on an experience from a Lonely Planet Blonde Backpacker (Jorge Daniel Barchi):

"I travelled in Argentina for a month a couple of months ago. I am a cautious traveler, and I had no safety issues and never felt uneasy. The harassment by men on the streets was very low. Most men paid me no attention, only a few comments here and there as I walked by, and no hissing. I was surprised and relieved. "

Here thoughts were harassment can be more prevalent in Peru.

"Women get hassled more in Bolivia and Peru than in Argentina. Ignore it. I cannot say any more than that. You cannot stop it so just pretend you have not heard and keep going. If you are actually face to face with an unwanted conversation, politely but firmly ask the man to go away. If he does not ( he will probably express astonishment that you are offended ) move away yourself, if possible towards a family or older woman. "

However, in general Safety is the biggest factor with regards to thefts etc.

Essential "Do's" and "Don'ts" when Traveling South America as a Blonde female.

Deposit photos

1. Don't - Travel with valuables such as jewellery.

Leave your bracelets, necklaces, expensive earring and watches in a safe place like hotel the safe!

2. Don't - Photograph locals without permission.

3. Don't - Be offended if a South American stands too close while talking.

It part of their culture. But still try and keep your personal space without offending.

4. Don't - Accept drinks from strangers. Deny respectfully.

4. Don't - Taking public transport unless absolutely necessary!

Especially buses and train on lonely secluded routes.  These are very common places to get mugged. Call taxi, if you can through a hotel or nearby restaurant.

5. Don't - Carry too much cash.

If you are going out for a trip, just carry enough cash to cover daily expenses and your credit card.

6. Don't - Take unlicensed taxis

Taxi's with a red and white taxi sign on the windscreen. Take licensed yellow taxis. If no meter is on, negotiate fares before moving or getting in.

South American Taxi | EurovisionNim via Wikimedia Commons

7. Don't - Feel offended if you are referred as “Gringo”.

That is a common phrase for tourists.

8. Don't - Be nude at beaches or in tourist spots.

"The charge, read out in court, was that at 6.45am on 30 May in the vicinity of Mount Kinabalu they carried out “obscene acts in a public place under 294 [a] of the penal code”. They were also accused of “excessive noise and ignoring the advice [of their guide]”. All four avoided trial by pleading guilty."

Although Latin America is not as strict as Asia, it could still cause you Unnecessary attention.

What you should "Do" as a Blonde female?

1. Do - Be friendly, smile and be humble.

2. Do - Dress simple and respectable.

Wear casual, comfortable clothes, if you wan't to blend in don't wear really short shorts.

3. Do - Try and learn some useful phrases in Spanish and Portuguese

Spanish phrases | Day Translations Team via Wikimedia Commons

4. Do - Bring mosquito nets, insect sprays etc.

Essential if you plan to sleep outdoors or in rustic accommodation.

5. Do - Bring insect repellant to prevent illnesses like dengue or malaria.

6. Do - Keep a spare paper map of the local area.

As cell phone signal and GPS can be bad in remote regions.

7. Do - Ask for directions if you are lost.

Best to ask inside a shop or restaurant. If there is nothing close by ask a local but confidently without letting them know that you are lost.

8. Do - Wear a hat, long sleeved shirt and pants If going into the wild to avoid mosquito bites!

9. Do - Tip if the service is good.

Rule of thumb is 10-15% in restaurants and 20% in bars.

10. Do - Drink Sealed Bottled water and Ensure that the street food you eat looks clean.

11. Do – Keep your valuables safe.

As with most countries an increase in tourism is directly proportional to a rise in petty theft! Having your valuables go missing can be a real nightmare especially your passport & cash!  In busy places like Argentina keep you bag away from the road side while walking to avoid drive by bag snatchers on scooters!

I don’t travel anywhere in asia now without my money belt which tucks neatly under my shirt and out of site from prying eyes.

Get yours now on the Mtravels Amazon Essentials page which compares all the prices worldwide.

Money belt | Mattes via Wikimedia Commons

Great Secret money belt for emergency cash…

Blonde in south America, money belt for safety.

Innovative Secret Money Belt. Great for smart travellers! From Mtravels Amazon Essentials Page.

Is it safe for a Blonde in South America?

From our detailed list above, i'm sure you can see that it is safe for a blonde in South America, as long as you follow the do's and Don't's and  keep your common sense then your blonde hair shouldn't cause too much trouble while traveling in South America and you will have a fantastic time, whether blonde, brunette or whatever!

Want more info, check out this article: Do's and Don'ts for Solo Female Backpacking in South America.

Deposit photos

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Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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