Natalia Ponce de Leon: Life After an Acid Attack

I mentioned the recent legislative action against acid attackers in Colombia in an earlier post. In that post, I mentioned the activism Natalia Ponce and her important role in awareness to the issues of assault that Colombian women face. In another article published by the BBC on February 6th, we are given a deeper sense of who Natalia Ponce de Leon is and how she has rebuilt her life after being brutally mutilated by an acid attack:

At the age of 33, Natalia was approached by a man she only vaguely knew. He came to her house, pretending to be an ex-boyfriend to get her attention. He then tossed a liter sulfuric acid on her which severely burned her face, arms, torso and one of her legs. Reflecting on the experience, Natalia says it felt like water at first and it was completely odorless. Then, her clothes started to burn, and then she began to feel it consuming her flesh.

On the road to recovery, Natalia says her main concern was blindness, because her eyelids were completely burned away. She received four operations to reconstruct her eyelids, in which time she had to relearn how to blink. Although she did not ultimately lose her sense of vision, that in itself presented a new problem: confronting her reflection in the mirror. Natalia describes the first time she looked in the mirror after her attack as absolutely traumatic. But with time and several more operations, Natalia has grown a very distinct sense of confidence; she keeps a magnifying mirror with her at all times, no longer wears her treatment mask while navigating the public sphere, and applies eye make-up as an acceptance of her reality.

Natalia now spends lots of time indoor under dim lighting because too much light exposure would further damage her skin. Nevertheless, she has developed very quickly in her two-year recovery period, and continues to focus on the positives of her situation: her neck and ears were not damaged in the attack, and those areas would have been particularly difficult to heal.



Joshua Boelsche