Expo 2020 Dubai: Colombia pavilion reflects a growing nation with an 'unfair reputation'

Netflix crime dramas and the life of Pablo Escobar do not represent the real country, commissioner says

The bare exterior draped in greenery of the Colombia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai may give the impression of a work in progress, and that is exactly the effect its designers had in mind.

To reflect the status of the nation, a sleeping giant in flux towards change, the three-tier white metallic structure leaves much to the imagination.

But venture inside, and from sweet aromas of fresh coffee served by Colombian baristas on the ground floor to the virtual salsa classes and drumming lessons on floor three, the visitor experience is one to savour.

We want to change the image of Colombia, as most people have no idea what our country is about except from this vision expressed on Netflix
Juan Pablo Cavelier, the pavilion’s commissioner general

“The architecture of our pavilion gives the message we are an evolving country,” said Juan Pablo Cavelier, the pavilion’s commissioner general.

“It is not under construction, but we are continuing to grow. That is what Colombia is all about.

“Colombia is a growing nation and will be the third fastest growing country in Latin America after Chile and Peru. We are above Brazil and Mexico, which tells you a lot.

“Our country is an incredible place, but largely unknown, and we want people to see our pavilion and leave with an ambition to visit Colombia.”

The pavilion is one of the more fun to visit, with interactive, immersive virtual tours of the nation’s beautiful landscapes revealing secrets of the vast nation on the north-western tip of South America that is home to 50 million.

Coffee is crucial to the national economy; Colombia is the third-largest global exporter behind Brazil and Vietnam.

It is also the largest producer of emeralds, and the second-largest exporter of flowers.

Pavilion visitors take a tour through Colombia’s six macro-regions, and experience a taste of its extraordinarily diverse landscapes, tourism attractions and investment opportunities.

But Netflix crime dramas featuring Colombian drug cartels and the life story of the notorious criminal Pablo Escobar have not helped the nation’s reputation overseas, Mr Cavelier said.

“We want to change the image of Colombia, as most people have no idea what our country is about except from this vision expressed on Netflix,” he said.

“Colombia has an unfair reputation, not just because of Netflix, but it comes from being unknown. We have the second-largest Hispanic population after Mexico.

“It is a safe place to visit, and has many hidden jewels because of the variety of the landscape and climates.

“There is a subtle message that we are in industrial nation with huge cities like Bogota, Cali and Medellin.

“People are surprised by Bogota; it is a huge metropolis. Come and discover Colombia. It will amaze you.

“Our coffee is special because it is grown on the hillside and picked by hand, so it does not have that bitterness.

“As you fly over Medellin you can see the beautiful fields of flowers. It is quite a sight.

“We want to increase our presence in the UAE and export more of our grass fed meat here. We have so much space, it is truly free-range.”

Colombia’s president, Ivan Duque is due to visit the UAE and his country’s pavilion on November 5-6, to establish new business links and bilateral relations.

“We have pure honey and honey with fruits from the Caribbean side of Colombia,” said Laura Torres Toro, who is selling produce at the pavilion.

“Our black tea is infused with mango, but the chocolate we sell is the most popular.

“It has blackberry, cinnamon and blueberry. People are coming back and we are busy most days, so that is a good sign for us.”

Chocolate, coffee, honey and tea are on sale inside the pavilion’s branch of Evok, a farmer-focused retailer in Medellin.

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Updated: October 17th 2021, 4:58 AM