Apr 11

Tourism Colombia: Magical Realism…or…How to Confuse Everyone at a Fancypants Event.

I don’t know why they let me, but I managed to get myself invited to the official launch of Colombia’s new national tourism campaign. Well, two official launches of Colombia’s new national tourism campaign. First, though, let’s have a look at what some of Colombia’s greatest minds have come up with.

I’m not even being ironic in that last sentence. Few would argue that Gabriel Garcia Marquez wasn’t one of this country’s greatest minds, and he’s pretty much responsible for the thrust of the new campaign: “Colombia: Magical Realism.” It was largely through Gabo’s work that a new literary genre found its way into the world, and really, it just makes good sense that this concept is used to describe the country which gave birth to such works as A Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Scurvy I Mean Cholera.

We here at the almost completely fictional STC Towers think we’ve been attuned to this aspect of Colombia for a good while now. The amazing things that happen here every day; the slightly baffling megadiversity (I’m assured it is actually a word, and not the name of the new Bruce Willis flick) of this place, where you can go from snow-capped mountains to bath-warm ocean beaches in the matter of a few hours; and the stories that are told about how particular sites came to be the way they are clearly fit the Magical Realism bill nicely. This struck home for me particularly when I was writing about Cartagena (this to come), and how the very walls of this city seemed to be built with magical realism. Perhaps that’s why my favourite ad (I’m sure the English version is to come) of the new campaign is the one about the Heroic City, A?


OK, our Captain of the Towers, JL, assures me he’ll be giving a more in-depth look at the nuts and bolts of the campaign later, so it just remains for me to explain how one can confuse everyone at such an event.

The media release was at ten yesterday morning, and on arrival at the entrance of the Bogota Planetarium, I encountered a swarm of security guards, paramedics, and very serious-looking people with earpieces emanating airs of brisk efficiency and confidence. I garbled that I worked for STC, and after much questioning, discussion, and touching of earpieces, I was directed to a downstairs door. Here I was met with another legion of guards, who assured me I couldn’t enter that way. Back to the entrance, where the most confident suited man yet escorted me back to the impenetrable entrance, and whisked me through. I soon found myself in the bowels of the planetarium, with men and women in smart uniforms getting attended to by a make-up artist, and champagne flutes getting prepared on a table. It was at this time that I called our Fearless Leader, JL, to ask what I’d actually got myself into. After confusing both of us, I finally got some help from a lovely lady replete with yet another ear-piece, who finally clicked as to what had happened, and led me through a labyrinth until we emerged into the light, thankfully greeted by people with cameras, i-pads, jeans, and countenances expressing quiet expectation. My kind of people. Magical Realism to follow.

Still slighty bemused as to what had just happened.
Still slighty bemused as to what had just happened.


Cut forward to the evening, where things were even more fancypants. I’d changed into my suit (finally! A chance to justify me carting it all the way from Sydney!) and was ready to enter the Planetarium again, this time to meet both my Fearless Leaders. Now, along with the scrum of guards, paramedics, and ear-pieces, there were two SWAT team members, a number of crisply-suited police officers with white ceremonial batons, soldiers with stern demeanours and Blackberries at ease, and someone I swore was an undercover body-guard (I love that Kevin Costner movie, Dances With Whitney). After a legion of guards had questioned me in depth, I again met my super-confident and efficient suited-and-ear-pieced man from the morning, who quelled everybody’s confusion as to what I was doing at such a fancypants event by assuring them that I worked at the planetarium. Confusion reigned supreme.

Trying to look as fancypants as possible, and looking nothing like a douche.
Trying to look as fancypants as possible, and looking nothing like a douche.


Anyway, the campaign was interesting, the wine was pretty good, and I really liked the ceviche. Magical realism all round!



3 thoughts on “Tourism Colombia: Magical Realism…or…How to Confuse Everyone at a Fancypants Event.

  1. NM on

    Hi Paul,
    Nice piece! Is there an email where I could contact you for more info on this campaign?


      Paul Giles on

      G’day NM! There definitely is: I’d love to talk more about it: pgiles@seecolombia.travel.
      But, first, check out the commercials: https://seecolombia.travel/blog/2013/04/colombia-from-risk-to-magic-the-new-colombia-travel-international-campaign/
      and JL’s pointed analysis of it: https://seecolombia.travel/blog/2013/04/colombia-from-risk-to-magical-realism-the-new-international-campaign-of-colombia/
      Plenty of food for thought in the latter article in particular.


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