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Colombia in popular culture

The depiction of Colombia in popular culture, especially the portrayal of Colombian people in film and fiction, has been asserted by Colombian organizations and government to be largely negative and has raised concerns that it reinforces, or even engenders, societal prejudice and discrimination due to association with narco-trafficking, terrorism, illegal immigration and other criminal elements, poverty and welfare.[1] The Colombian government-funded Colombia is Passion advertisement campaign as an attempt to improve Colombia's image abroad, with mixed results[2] hoping for more positive views on Colombia.

Aside from the Colombia is passion campaign, Soccer has been known for being a major part in creating positive views as perhaps the most important to Colombians.


Depictions of Colombia in foreign filmsEdit

Failings in the background research and the reproduction of the country are very common in films depicting Colombia. Some of these mistakes include showing Bogotá or Medellín as sylvatic or coastal regions, using Mexican or Puerto Rican actors (with noticeable accents), Mexican costumes, anachronisms and a general inaccuracy regarding the depiction of how the conflicts between government and drug-trading cartels work.

Some examples of fictional Colombian settings are:

Fraser portrayed a Colombian druglord
Depp portrayed an American with ties to Pablo Escobar
Schwarzenegger portrayed a man that fought the Colombian rebels
Saldana portrayed a Colombian woman fighting drug traffickers
Norris portrayed a Colonel fighting Colombian drug lords
Diesel portrayed a man fighting a Colombian drug lord
Blunt portrayed a DEA agent working alongside a former Colombian drug lord
Benicio del Toro portrayed Pablo Escobar
Al Pacino portrayed a man that fought a Colombian gang

Depictions of Colombia in Colombian filmsEdit

Child on the street, screenshot from Gamin film by Ciro Duran, 1978

The mainstream of Colombian cinema follows the trend of the foreign cinema, depicting mostly narcotrafficking related issues, hit men stories, and films with a high content of poverty and human misery. Criticism of this type of film-making argued that these films did not treat their subject with profoundness, instead taking a superficial approach to the issues.[3] Some examples are:


Colombia in televisionEdit


  • Modern Family: two of the main characters Gloria Pritchett and Manny Delgado play by Sofia Vergara and Rico Rodriguez respectively are Colombians and in contact with their culture and costumes. Vergara represents a woman who comes from a small village in Colombia that is the murder capital of the country.[5] Vergara has brought Colombian culture to life in the television show and has helped ensure that the writers are accurate when it comes to presenting the culture on television. Modern Family tries to be as accurate as possible when it comes to Colombian culture, down to how people would dress at a party.[6] Rico Rodriguez portrays Vergara's Colombian son, Manny, in Modern Family.
  • Pablo Escobar is a common reference of Colombia in the television worldwide. In the popular TV show Entourage, Vincent Chase (played by Adrian Grenier) plays Escobar in a movie entitled Medellin. Escobar is also the subject of an episode in a documentary series called Situation Critical, produced by the National Geographic Channel in 2007.
  • Narcos: Brazilian actor Wagner Moura portrays Colombian Pablo Escobar in Netflix's 2015 series Narcos, which was filmed in Colombia.[7] Narcos depicts how police officers and politicians worldwide dealt with Pablo Escobar, the famous drug lord from Colombia who changed history. Although the filming was done in Colombia, the actors in the show were not all Colombian. Paulina Gaitan who is Mexican portrays Escobar's wife in the show, Luis Guzman who is Puerto Rican portrays Escobar's partner, and Brazilian Andre Mattos plays the role of Escobar's rival. Although the show has been very popular among the American audience, it is not as popular among Colombians due to the poor attempt at Colombian accents.[8]
  • The Sopranos: "Gallegos" (played by Jessy Terrero) is a wealthy Colombian drug trafficker killed by Paulie Walnuts as a final warning to his organization that they were operating on Soprano family territory in New Jersey. Paulie and Big Pussy also steal a lot of cash from his hotel room. Paulie notifies Tony of Gallegos' death by saying "Juan Valdez has been separated from his donkey", a reference to the Colombian coffee commercials.
  • Family Guy: In the beginning of the Family Guy episode "Let's Go to the Hop", a Colombian drug cartel plane crashes and drops a cargo full of psychoactive toads which becomes a drug fanaticism in the local schools. In the beginning of the Family Guy episode "Barely legal", Adam West sends all the Quahog police to Cartagena, Colombia.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "Mobile Homer", Marge, influenced by a "Wifetime TV" movie about when a wealthy man without insurance dies and whose widow and children are forced to live on the streets, decides to save money by buying imitation brands of cereal and coffee; a coffee can is shown with the Juan Valdez (a sad Valdez) logo with a phrase on it: ..."Colombian shame".

Colombian televisionEdit

Television in Colombia consists mostly of soap operas which are known in most countries of Latin America, the most famous and the one that had biggest reception by international audience was Yo Soy Betty, La Fea, which starred Ana Maria Orozco as Beatriz Aurora "Betty" Pinzon Solano and Jorge Enrique Abello as Armando Mendoza Saenz. The story was set in Bogota, Colombia and revolved around the relationship between the two main characters. The soap opera originally premiered in Colombia on October 25, 1999, but was later adapted from half-hour episodes to full-hour episodes that were shows in the United States. Yo Soy Betty, La Fea was adapted and remade in over 50 countries in many different languages including English, Japanese, and Chinese. The soap opera inspired the very popular American hit Ugly Betty.[9]

Lately, there has been a rise in shows that portray drug dealing which have been controversial in the country because the characters are law breakers who are glorified; some examples are:


  • Clear and Present Danger: 1989 novel by Tom Clancy is a canonical part of the Jack Ryan universe. In the novel, Jack Ryan is thrown into the position of CIA Acting Deputy Director (Intelligence) in a war against the Medellín Cartel based in Colombia.
  • Killing Pablo: 2001 book detailing the efforts by both the United States government and the Colombian government to stop illegal activities committed by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his subordinates, written by Mark Bowden.
  • My Colombian Death: 2008 book by Matthew Thompson relating his 2006 experiences in Colombia, when he roamed the country spending time at carnivals and with gang members and cocaine dealers, ran with bulls, played the explosive drinking game of tejo and met Salvatore Mancuso, the then-head of the right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a US-designated terrorist organisation[10]
  • Killing Peace: Colombia's Conflict and the Failure of U.S. Intervention: 2002 book by Garry Leech documents the four-decade armed conflict in Colombia.
  • Out of Captivity, subtitled Surviving 1967 Days in the Colombian Jungle: 2009 book written by Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes with the assistance of author Gary Brozek. It narrates the time they spent in the Colombian jungle as prisoners of the FARC, a narco-terrorist organization, who accused them of being members of the CIA after their plane crashed in a mountainous region.
  • Drug trafficking and Capitalism: a contemporary paradox: 2008 book by Eliana Herrera Vega (English translation)[11] The book explains the actual drug problem as a communicational paradox between major social systems.
  • America's Other War: Terrorizing Colombia (ISBN 978-1842775479) by Doug Stokes, examines US intervention in Colombia and argues that it has primarily been driven by a desire to secure a stable supply of oil and to pacify threats to US economic and political interests.
  • Dying Words: Colombian Journalists and the Cocaine Warlords: 1990 book by Coke Newell
  • Cosmic Banditos: 1986 novel by Allan Weisbecker, about the adventures of a marijuana smuggler hiding out in the mountains of Colombia with his dog, High Pockets.
  • Rey de Noches, a fantasy book, has a nation named Emeraldsia. The name is a reference towards Colombia's rich quality of Emeralds. The history mentioned is corresponding to the real life era of the union between Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama known as Gran Colombia. As well as its culture history.[12][13][14]

Comics, anime and mangaEdit

  • Mother Goose and Grimm: In a comic strip published on January 2, 2009, Grimm wonders if the Colombian crime syndicate puts parts of the corpse of Juan Valdez in each can of coffee,[15][16] referring to an advertising slogan of Colombian coffee "there's a little bit of Juan Valdez in every can of Colombian coffee".[16] In response to the comic strip, the Colombian Coffee-growers Federation sued artist Mike Peters for linking Colombian coffee to human rights abuse.[17]
  • Bullseye character deals with Colombian cocaine smugglers.
  • Black Lagoon: In the episode 9, "Maid to Kill", appear Roberta and the Lovelace Family who are from South America; Roberta dispatches the majority of the cartel members, and Garcia is shocked at her combat prowess. Revy inadvertently reveals the Lagoon Company's presence during the firefight, and is knocked unconscious when Roberta fires a 40 mm grenade at her. Garcia asks the Lagoon Company to take him with them, and they manage to escape. One of the cartel members identifies Roberta as a former FARC guerrilla with a large bounty on her head. In the coming third season, Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail is presuming that the characters are in Colombia and Venezuela.
  • Excel Saga: In episode 19 ("Menchi's Great adventure"), Menchi and a young rich girl go to Colombia and drink coffee
  • Hellsing: In OVA 7, is told that Bernadotte's Great Father died in Colombia

Video gamesEdit



As consequence of the negative depiction of Colombia and the Colombian people, Colombians are often subject of prejudice and discrimination in several countries.[21] some examples include:

  • Colombians are among the main targets of xenophobes and neonazi attacks in Europe, especially in Spain[22] and France.[23] Spanish paramedics have reportedly refused to provide care to Colombian victims of such events.[24] Police have been reported to refuse received complaints of the victims.[23]
  • "We don't sell to Colombians" signs are common in Ecuadorian stores[citation needed]. Lynching and necklacing of Colombian people have been reported in Ecuador.[25] Police and media are accused of creating the image that every delinquent band has Colombian leaders. Police reportedly refuse to receive denounces of crimes against Colombians.[26] Colombian children are often rejected from schools, and "preventive" battering of unrelated Colombians in the vicinity of a crime scene has been reported.[27]
  • Colombian passport often makes the person suspicious to international custom authorities[citation needed]. Extensive cavity searches, dismantling of luggages, clothing and personal items and Illegal retention in the airports without food or basic facilities have been reported[28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "05 sommer ch 3" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2005-05-15. Retrieved 2017-05-18.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ Jenkins, Simon (February 2, 2007). "Passion alone won't rescue Colombia from its narco-economy stigma". The Guardian. London. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  3. ^ (in Portuguese) Universidade Estacio de Sa: A VIGÊNCIA DA PORNOCHANCHADA NA DITADURA MILITAR Archived 2008-05-29 at the Wayback Machine Universidade Estacio de Sa, Accessed 26 August 2007.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2009-12-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Sofia Vergara as Gloria | Modern Family". ABC. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  6. ^ "Sofia Vergara Reveals How She Changed 'Modern Family'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  7. ^ Jaramillo, Juliana Jiménez (2015-07-16). "Netflix's Narcos Might Be Our First TV Show to Accurately Represent the Latin American Drug War". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  8. ^ Bogotá, Sibylla Brodzinsky in. "Narcos is a hit for Netflix but iffy accents grate on Colombian ears". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  9. ^ "Ugly is the New Beautiful: Colombia's "Yo soy Betty, la fea"". Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Retrieved 2007-07-15. US State Department list of terrorist organisations.
  11. ^ "TRAFIC DE DROGUES ET CAPITALISME - Un paradoxe contemporain, Eliana Herrera-Vega - livre, ebook, epub". 2015-05-22. Retrieved 2017-05-18.
  12. ^ Torres, Sean (5 July 2012). "Rey de Noches". Lulu Press – via Amazon.
  13. ^ "Rey de Noches by Sean Torres on iBooks". iBooks.
  14. ^ Noble, Barnes &. "Rey de Noches". Barnes & Noble.
  15. ^ Peters, Mike (January 2, 2009). "Mother Goose and Grimm". Grimmy, Inc. Archived from the original (GIF) on February 24, 2010. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  16. ^ a b "Colombian coffee growers to sue over US cartoon". Google News. Associated Press. January 8, 2009.
  17. ^ "Colombians find redemption in coffee". BBC News. January 9, 2009. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  18. ^ Leon, Pablo (2009-08-28). "Centre For The Aesthetic Revolution: Tania Bruguera's Controversial Performance In Colombia". Retrieved 2017-05-18.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-23. Retrieved 2009-09-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "La Empericada De Tania Bruguera". YouTube. 2009-08-27. Retrieved 2017-05-18.
  21. ^ *(Spanish) Narcotráfico: un pretexto para la discriminación de los migrantes colombianos y de otras nacionalidades Colombia, Documentos De La Red ISSN 1900-639X, 2007 vol:2 fasc: 1 págs: 74 - 92 Autores: WILLIAM MEJIA OCHOA,
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2009-09-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ a b Ricardo Abdahllah (2009-06-18). "Dura golpiza a colombiano en París". Elespectador.Com (in Spanish). Retrieved 2017-05-18.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-22. Retrieved 2009-09-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ Tiempo, Casa Editorial El. "Los brotes de xenofobia en Ecuador contra colombianos toman tintes preocupantes". El Tiempo.
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2009-09-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ "HOY (Quito) Ecuador: xenofobia contra colombianos". Archived from the original on 2011-07-10. Retrieved 2009-09-24.
  28. ^ Racismo, S.O.S. (2003-04-25). "Informe Sos Racismo 2006". ISBN 9788474266382. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)