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Americans head to Mexico for plastic surgery

Low costs and proximity to the US make Guadalajara the 'in' place to get a 'tummy tuck.'

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Every year tourists descend upon Guadalajara, often referred to as the most "Mexican" of Mexican cities, where the crooning of mariachi music originated.

But first-time visitor Jennifer Guerra, from Houston, pays no attention to Mexico's most celebrated symbol. She's here for one reason alone. "I'm getting a 'tummy tuck' tomorrow," she says, nervously.

Indeed, Guadalajara, Mexico's second-biggest city, has become a new "in" place for Americans like Ms. Guerra seeking plastic surgery, fuelled by the same cheap prices that have given rise to the growing phenomenon of medical tourism worldwide, word of mouth, and tour operators that make planning for surgery south of the border as simple as booking a vacation.

"The number of those traveling [outside the US for plastic surgery] has grown dramatically," says Tony Staffieri, marketing and public relations manager for International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS). "Mexico is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world."

Guadalajara's proximity to tourist spots like Puerto Vallarta and Lake Chapala, where one of the largest American retirement communities resides in Mexico, has helped boost its appeal as a place for Americans to seek plastic surgery.

While ISAPS could not confirm the ratio, those in Guadalajara like to boast that the city has more certified plastic surgeons per capita anywhere in Latin America outside Rio de Janeiro. Guadalajara also has a public hospital that gives poor people access to plastic surgery at discounted rates, says plastic surgeon Jose Guerrerosantos.

"We say that no one is unattractive in Guadalajara," jokes Martha Venegas, a resident here. "There are poor people, but no ugly ones."

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