Those of us blessed with a difficult name are all too familiar with the problem of people spelling it wrong. But what if you constantly had to correct the misspelling of your country?
The irritation got too much for Emilio Pombo, who started a global social media campaign to set the record straight about Colombia. That’s Colombia, NOT Columbia.
“When people are referring to my coucntry, that’s Colombia with an ‘O’. People say it mostly like Columbia with a ‘U’… like the place in Washington State of the U.S,” said Pombo.
The idea began when Pombo, a marketing executive, was invited to participate in a social media conference in New York. Even the invitation committed the irksome error.
“They wrote us an email saying, ‘You guys from Columbia want to come to our conference?’ We said thanks for the invitation, we’ll be there and the name of our conference is ‘It’s Colombia, not Columbia’,” said Pombo.
“We wanted to use the venue to start explaining the mistakes and start talking about the positive aspects of our country.”
That was back in February 2013, and now the campaign’s Facebook page has more than 27,000 likes, spawning t-shirts, caps and memes that have rippled on social media.
The crusade has reached more than 50 countries, with social media users eager to correct politicians, news outlets and brands with the hashtag #ItsColombiaNotColumbia.
It’s a surprisingly common mistake – one that even CNN is not immune to making.
But it’s more than just a spelling campaign. Pombo’s movement set out to showcase the best of the country’s culture and natural beauty, emphasising that a lot has changed from the Colombia of 10-20 years ago.
“Colombia is one of the greatest countries in the world,” he said. “It’s one of the most fun and adventurous countries you can find in South America.
“Thanks to the security, and the welcoming country [Colombia] has become in the last [few] years, a lot of very influential people have come to our country.
“People like Madonna, Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton. Ten or 20 years ago, we never had those types of people visiting Colombia.”
Pombo is quick to highlight the talents representing Colombia abroad, which include pop star Shakira, “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara and Real Madrid footballer James Rodriguez.
“We have a soccer player called [Radamel] Falcao, we have our Nobel Prize [winner] Gabriel Garcia Marquez,” he said.
“People are talking about them internationally, [but] they say ‘The Columbian writer, the Columbian soccer player’.”
During the last decade, Colombia has made significant strides to rebrand itself as a nation. Now Pombo hopes his campaign can put an end to that misspelling.