Feb 21

It’s Colombia, Not Columbia: Little Rocco, Medellín, Reputations and Bad Spelling

Above is a photo of a city that’s found itself the centre of a bit of a media uproar. During the otherwise completely succesful Madonna tour of Medellín, Madge’s little pride and joy, Rocco, posted a photo of the very same city to his private Instagram account. The furore about this isn’t over whether this gives unassailable proof that Rocco is a hipster-in-the-making or not. It’s about the caption attached to this 12 year old’s photo. Let’s study the simple phrase – it doesn’t really count as even a sentence.

Cocaine central, Columbia.

it's Colombia, not Columbia

What is remarkable about this phrase is how it focuses issues that we here at the See Colombia Travel Blog – along with, oh…every single Colombian in the world – identified quite some time ago, and, frankly, have become sick and tired of. To tell you the truth, these issues have gone on so long, that we’re really bored to tears by them.

The issue isn’t that a popstar’s pre-pubescent son was badmouthing (privately, really, but let that be) a city on his mum’s tour. It’s how a 12 year old westerner would hit upon an idea to add a caption to a photo of Medellín consisting of those three words.

The answer is, he wasn’t being groundbreakingly inventive. He was being a 12 year old kid, tapping into the culture around him.

And that culture’s view of Colombia has been the same for too long.

A dangerous, exotic, even glamorous South American country, rife with drugs, guns, and ridiculous accents. Perfect for a Hollywood action movie, perhaps, but really not much more.

This is all highlighted in the caption; right down to the fact that we don’t even know how to spell the name of the country. It’s not poor Rocco alone that has problems with simple spelling tests. Can you blame him, when even NBC struggles with it?

Courtesy of those pesky Latino Rebels - join them on Facebook.
Medellín is NOT a city in Columbia

Maybe this could be forgiven even ten years ago. But things done changed, world.

And the city in question illustrates this beautifully. The transformations undergone by the City of Eternal Spring are breathtaking, possibly, but also undeniably real. We’re not going to pretend that Medellín has eradicated all the problems involved with it once being the stomping ground of a certain man with the surname Escobar; but we really need to have a good, year 2013 look at this place. Clean, vibrant, bursting with cultural events, Medellín is a city on the move. And the ridiculous thing about all this, is that people do notice it. We’re not the only ones that like to sing its praises: it’s one of the top 3 most innvovative cities in the world, after all. For Madge’s sake – even Madonna herself has visited it!

We don’t want to go on about how we were talking about how much Colombia has changed for the better – even before it was cool to do so. That would make us hipsters, and we all know that we’re clearly not. The “It’s Colombia, not Columbia” campaign is steadily building up steam in its crusade to demonstrate how the misspelling of a country just highlights how skewed the popular conception of this amazing country is. We took a look at this problem in this blog post way back in March 2011 about how to spell Colombia.  National GeographicGadlingThe New York Times, and The Guardian have all talked about the way Colombia has changed, and why you should visit it.

Madonna flexing in her iconic pointy bra
Madonna flexing in her iconic pointy bra

So, I guess what we’re trying to say here is, let’s not pick on poor little Rocco. It must be hard enough having a mum that traipses around stages in pointy bras anyway. What we’d like to focus on is how to show the world how much this country has changed, and how many amazing experiences it can offer – and let’s leave this Hollywood-instagrammed old image where it belongs. In bargain racks of old DVDs.

And, like we keep on telling you, the only u in Colombia should be

You get the picture.


12 thoughts on “It’s Colombia, Not Columbia: Little Rocco, Medellín, Reputations and Bad Spelling

    Paul Giles on

    Heya Sofia; sadly, I’m afraid you’re right, there. I guess it’s a much less sexy interpretation of Madge’s song about it being human nature. The best we can do is to focus on the more positive – and less sleazy – points that characterise the Colombia of today, in an effort to help this beautiful country we love to raise itself into the bright sunlight of a future we feel it deserves. This is not to say we ought to ignore the negative points – of course, nobody would deny the existence of these. Let’s just not clog up poor old instagram accounts with them – it affects the upload speed of our photos of mung bean burgers for a start.


    Sofia on

    Once a city or country gets a bad rep it takes a long time to get rid of it, and some rumors or reputations don’t really every go away, unfortunately.

    It’s funny though how most of those who judge other countries are also the ones who haven’t even bothered to “research” enough to know how to spell the name of the country right..!


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