|'Long live Columbia!' Can it be?|
It comments on a sensitive point for the South American nation named after the Genoese mariner who
arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, altho he never set foot in present-day Colombia. (I'm careful not to call him the 'discoverer of the Americas', since millions of people already lived here.) Whether due to cultural prejudice or just sloppy typing, gringos commonly spell Colombia's name with a U.
To combat this assault on Colombia's self-respect, someone's set up an 'It's Colombia not Columbia' Facebook page and even an It's Colombia not Columbia virtual store.
Amongst Colombia's enduring image problems, the difference between an O and a U is one of the most trifling. During Colombia's big run in this year's World Cup, that's manifested itself in foreign celebrities' crude jokes associating Colombian footballers with cocaine. Dutch actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Nicolette van Dam resigned after tweeting a photo showing Colombian football stars snorting lines on the field. Van Dam quickly apologized:
I retweeted a picture with absolutely no harm intended at all. I honestly did not want to offend any player, cause anyone to feel uncomfortable or create disgrace in any way.
But the very fact that Van Dam initially saw only humor in the image shows how Colombia's association with illegal drugs is still widely taken for granted.
More interesting than the vowel that's employed is why Colombia is named 'Colombia' at all, rather than 'Colonia', the logical derivation of the explorer's Spanish name, Cristobal Colon. The country's name comes from the explorer's Italian surname, Colombo. That's probably lucky, since 'Colonia' would undoubtedly generate more than its own share of bad jokes.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours