There is something about the first three letters (or two) of the name Colombia that makes them irresistible. I imagine that Cristóbal Colón had no idea as to the mad wide popularity that the first syllable of his surname would assume, especially in a country that many Americans understandably but mistakenly write as Columbia. That there is controversy as to the true identity of the fore-mentioned Christopher Colón only adds to the lexical draw of the seminal word Columbus. And though the origins of the Col word may be shrouded in the past, the progeny of Colón or Columbus are self-evident in contemporary Colombia. 


Just last week, I had a light bulb go off as I was on a bus going uptown on la Séptima in Bogotá. We passed a musical instrument store called La Colonial. And suddenly, most probably because I was thinking of writing this piece, I made the connection in my head between the word colonial and Colón as in Cristóbal Colón or Christopher Colombus for the very first time. But of course! The association has always been there, colonial as in or from the time of Colombus, easier to understand through Spanish than in English- just new to my mindset. And my day improved considerably with the observation. Insights into language, both English and Spanish and more, are some of the joys of living in a country whose native tongue is not one’s own.


Here in present day Colombia there seem to be no end to the permutations of Col. Daily we are happy to have ColSanitas as one of our health providers. We have ColSubsidio, another health provider/supermarket conglomerate. ColSubsidio pharmacies seem to populate every other block in Bogotá. Banco ColPatria or simply ColPatria is one of our major banks. ColPatria bank branches are again all over. Torre Colpatria or the ColPatria Building is, as I write, still the tallest building in the city. We also have ColSeguros, and you name it Col whatever-it-is. GM Colmotores is a General Motors subsidiary here. Colwagen, you guessed it, sells VW’s, Audi’s and more. Col Rubber is self evident. Club Colombia is a national beer. Colombina is a snack, candy and chocolate multi-national. Colquesos offers cheeses. As does Colanta. Colombia’s native CocaCola is called Colombiana.


Col is not alone. In Colombia, we also have Co as a prefix or lead-in or web address. Co benefits much from its association with the words Compañia (Company) and Cooperativa (Cooperative). Coordinadora is one of the Colombian Fed Ex/ USP companies. Its trucks are everyday on our streets. Coomeva – try saying that one three or four times fast in a row – is another insurance company. Google, once you sign on to the internet here, will tell you that you are in In fact, .co is now available as a unique internet address. You get the picture.

Once here, you are never going to forget where you are. The celebratory Colombian flag, yellow, blue and red, is ubiquitous. However, Ecuador and Venezuela have similar flags. But just in case your mind should ever confuse the local visual reference, you will always have, in Colombia, the Co…. Col…. or Colombia signposts immediately available to reassure you that you are indeed at the source, in the country called Colombia. Just glance up from your dinner plate, take a look around and you will know that you are here.


Though with the name Colombia a question remains. How did Américo Vespucio one-up Cristóbal Colón in the naming of a continent? How come we don’t have the United States of Colombia just a tad to our north? And how come we don’t have a continent, now known as the Americas, known as the Colombias? Or a country now known as America known as Colombia? Ah well, that’s another story.