Colombia, it seems, has left its heart in Washington. About 40 of them, actually.
Perhaps you've seen the colorful hearts strategically located around town, like the one in the picture from Dupont Circle. They're there to raise awareness of Colombia. Long known for its drug trafficking and murders, the country is trying to change its image.
A well-done piece by Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel was a good start. But the media assault was picked up by the Colombian tourism board, which has placed the hard-to-miss hearts around D.C. as part of its "Discover Colombia Through Its Heart" campaign with the hope that they will make us want to visit.
Whether a few cheerful hearts will make us forget about years of violence is questionable, but at least one group in town isn't ready to hop a flight to Bogota just yet.
A group behind the ColombiaVisit.org satirical Web site will hold a protest at Union Station today to shed light the situation in the country. The group says the tourism PR campaign is actually aimed at Congress and hopes to sway lawmakers to drop their opposition to a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
So while Colombian tourism officials will be giving out free samples of coffee and showing off flowers at Union Station, the protesters will be doing the following, according to a release:
"... feature Quick Trip Simulation (disruptive street theatre simulating illegal military action), Real World Guides (look for the pink polo shirts!) and Floating Advertisements in Union Station. There will also be Beverage Promotion (Coca-Cola, which has been accused of complicity in trade unionist murders) and Food Sampling (Chiquita bananas, Chiquita has been fined for paying off paramilitaries)."
Should make for quite the visual.
So if you see any disturbances around Union Station today, you'll know what it's all about.
At least the hearts are pretty to look at...