Columbia, USA / Columbia, EEUU

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

THERE ARE 29 PLACES CALLED Columbia in the United States of America. The country of Colombia is not one of them.

I was recently reminded of a conversation I heard while waiting for residency card assistance outside a police station in Sevilla about eight years ago. My first-renewal residency card hadn’t yet arrived and my old one had expired. I needed to fly to New York to visit My Mother the Dowager Duchess and The Kid Brother and was told to go to this particular police station to obtain a letter that would allow me back into Spain without my card. This information turned out to be incorrect, but that’s besides today’s point. While I waited I listened to another staff person trying to assist a woman. She had brought in a document signed by her husband who was from Colombia. I heard the staff person explain that the document was not the correct one. It was for citizens of the United States of America.

She snapped, “Colombia is in America!” He said, “No. Colombia is in South America.” “Exactly,” she replied.

He continued, “The United States of America is in North America. And this form is only for citizens of the United States of America.”

She said, “It’s all America! It’s one continent. Like Europe.”

“Well, no,” he said. But she was insistent and continued, “Spain is in Europe. Colombia is in America. Brazil is in America.”

The poor man simply smiled and asked her to have a seat. When I left, the woman was on the phone with her husband, ranting, “These people don’t know basic geography.”

On the same subject, when I worked for an ad agency on Park Avenue in Manhattan in 1976–77, I always had the radio on at my desk. A talk show host had a letter from a woman who had tried to order something from a mail order catalog (she phoned in her order). As requested, she provided her address, finishing with the state, New Mexico.

The sales agent said, “Oh, I’m sorry Ma’am. We don’t ship to Mexico. We only ship within the continental United States.”

The woman said, “Oh, no, I’m in New Mexico.”

The sales agent indignantly and officiously snapped “Ma’am, I don’t care if you’re in New Mexico or Old Mexico, we only ship within the United States.”

Tonight I will again converse with The Kid Brother.


HAY 29 LUGARES LLAMADOS COLUMBIA en los Estados Unidos de América. El país de Colombia no es uno de ellos.

Hace poco recordé una conversación que escuché mientras esperaba asistencia con la tarjeta de residencia fuera de una estación de policía en Sevilla hace unos ocho años. Mi tarjeta de residencia de primera renovación aún no había llegado y la anterior había expirado. Necesitaba volar a Nueva York para visitar a Mi madre la duquesa viuda y El Hermanito y me dijeron que fuera a esta estación de policía en particular para obtener una carta que me permitiera regresar a España sin mi tarjeta. Esta información resultó ser incorrecta, pero eso es además del punto de hoy. Mientras esperaba escuché a otro miembro del personal tratando de ayudar a una mujer. Ella había traído un documento firmado por su esposo que era de Colombia. Escuché a la persona del personal explicar que el documento no era el correcto. Fue para ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos de América.

Ella espetó: “¡Colombia está en América!” Él dijo, “No. Colombia está en América del Sur ”. “Exactamente”, respondió ella.

Él continuó: “Los Estados Unidos de América están en Norteamérica. Y esta forma es solo para ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos de América”.

Ella dijo: “¡Es todo América! Es un continente. Como Europa”.

“Bueno, no”, él dijo. Pero ella insistió y continuó: “España está en Europa. Colombia está en América. Brasil está en América”.

El pobre hombre simplemente sonrió y le pidió que tomara asiento. Cuando me fui, la mujer estaba hablando por teléfono con su esposo, diciendo: “Estas personas no conocen la geografía básica”.

Sobre el mismo tema, cuando trabajaba para una agencia de publicidad en Park Avenue en Manhattan en 1976–77, siempre tenía la radio encendida en mi escritorio. Un presentador de un programa de entrevistas recibió una carta de una mujer que había tratado de pedir algo de un catálogo de pedidos por correo (ella llamó por teléfono). Según lo solicitado, ella proporcionó su dirección, terminando con el estado, Nuevo México.

El agente de ventas dijo: “Oh, lo siento, señora. No enviamos a México. Solo enviamos dentro de los Estados Unidos continentales”.

La mujer dijo: “Oh, no, estoy en Nuevo México” (un estado en EEUU).

El agente de ventas indignaba y oficiaba: “¡Señora, no me importa si está en Nuevo México o en Viejo México, solo enviamos dentro de los Estados Unidos”!

Esta noche volveré a conversar con El Hermanito.

1963. With Dale in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Even the locals often call it “Jersey.” No one gets confused.
Con Dale en Atlantic City, Nueva Jersey. Incluso los lugareños a menudo lo llaman “Jersey”. Nadie se confunde.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

36 thoughts on “Columbia, USA / Columbia, EEUU”

  1. LOVE the photo!
    This is an interesting conversation about ‘America’ that has been going on for ever.
    I remember reading one irate person saying he hated it when people refer to the USA as America….as if the USA is the only country that makes up America.
    Where does that leave Canada he wondered?
    America is the ‘new world’ in the eyes of Europe/the rest of the world.
    Just like Europe includes dozens of countries of which it is made up, America is Canada, the US, Mexico, and all the countries that make up South America.
    Sounds like the lady waiting for her document considered herself a citizen of America in the broadest sense of the word.
    No wonder native/aboriginal peoples must raise their eyebrows and or smile when they hear these conversations, eh?

    1. Jim:
      Until we moved here, I didn’t appreciate how appalling (and appallingly “US of American”) this way of thinking is. I have a feeling the woman doing the paperwork for her husband was finally (at some point) very disappointed to discover her husband wasn’t the AMERICAN she thought he was. That was probably a source of pride for her… being married to an American (and maybe a hoped-for ticket out… to Miami)!

      1. I am giggling at Anne Marie’s take on this! I am a glass 1/2 full kind of guy. DNA or learned it well but that’s just me. 🙂

  2. stupidity never takes a year off.

    dale was a beautiful woman.

    jersey’s steel pier.

    1. anne marie:
      I can’t stop thinking about the turkish taffy being pulled by machine in a window of a shop on the boardwalk. At the time that photo was taken (I was 9), Dale hadn’t yet turned 12. The Duchess had already been training her for years to be “a lady.”

  3. Many years ago while visiting Australia I checked into a hotel in Melbourne and the young bell hop said “so where you from in the States?” Perhaps a natural mistake so I pleasantly corrected him and said “I’m Canadian.” His reply immediately had me returning the tip I had in hand to my pocket. “Same thing isn’t it?” I resisted the urge to ask him which prison ship his family came over on – because I was a polite Canadian. LOL.

    1. Willym:
      Oh, you polite Canadian! IF anyone does ask us where we’re from, we’re tempted to say Canada. Most Spaniards assume English speakers are from the UK. US of Americans are rare here in town, so people from the UK wonder if we’re Canadian. It makes it easier than having to talk about the orange idiot in Washington DC.

  4. It’s always nice to find people who are as sucky at geography as I am. My baby sister still pouts about a Trivial Pursuit game I won because she thought she had me with a geography question. What is the capitol of Montana. Helena I said. I won. You see, I’d just read a biography of Gary Cooper, and he was born there. Otherwise, she would’ve had me. Victory is still sweet after all of these years 🙂

    1. Deedles:
      I don’t know why but I don’t remember many geography lessons from my childhood. I probably tuned out. NOW I’m interested and am appalled at how much I still don’t know. For example: I knew Helena was the capitol of Montana but I had no idea Gary Cooper was born there!

      1. Yeah, I’m just a font of useless information regarding the show biz 🙂

      2. Deedles:
        Never stop sharing. I hate hearing about all the “trending” celebs. But I love knowing where Gary Cooper was born, which I’ve already forgotten. Oh yeah, Helena, Montana.

  5. Reminds me of an exchange I had at a local produce market a few years back. I asked the Maya woman where her ginger root came from and she said “Columbia.” I was momentarily surprised at that since we are 8 or 900 miles north of Columbia, but figured there must a bigger trade route than I had thought. It took me a few minutes to realize she was referring to a nearby tiny village with the big name of San Pedro Columbia. That made much more sense.

    1. Wilma:
      That’s great. The things we learn. A neighbor was telling us he and his wife were going to Puerto Rico for three days. Seemed like an awfully long trip from Málaga to Puerto Rico for just three days. It was the name of a resort on Gran Canaria.

  6. We live about a half hour outside Columbia … a city in South Carolina, not the country.

    1. Bob:
      How far are you from Columbia, NORTH Carolina? I think that’s in America, too. And there’s a place called British Columbia in Canada America.

  7. New Mexico is the only state that had to add “USA” after its name on vehicle license plates. On a somewhat similar note, I once created an artist trading card with the quote “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

    1. TexasTrailerParkTrash:
      Oh, that trading card is brilliant. My mother had a friend (very sweet, bless her heart…) whom we met when we were on our way to Spain to live. We had been talking about a recent visit to Norway. Other friends were there and said something about Scandinavia. This sweet friend (bless her heart) asked if Spain was in Scandinavia.

    1. Mistress Maddie:
      I can’t even remember the boat and “beefy boys” who were clearly costumed for the roaring ’20s. Now if I had been taking that picture, I would have managed a bit more beef in the background.

  8. Your post reminded me of the time on the first day of school when I asked the class if they’d been to a foreign country over the summer. One student answered that he had, he’d been to Texas. I told him that Texas wasn’t a foreign country, it was one of the 50 states of the union, just like our state was. He persisted and kept arguing. Needless to say, he wasn’t a stellar student. But then again, he does have a point…Texas is kind of like a foreign country to me here on the East Coast.

    1. mcpersonalspace54:
      I can’t believe that kid argued with you about… even if Texas DOES feel like another country. There was an episode of the Newlywed Game that had a response like that. (Where was your last foreign car made? Texas.) I’ll bet it was that kid’s mother!

      1. I couldn’t believe it the whole time he was arguing too…and it was the first day of school. I might add that he wasn’t a stellar student. Especially in history and social studies.

  9. There are TV and print ads that tout Texas as “A whole other country.” When we moved here from California in ’96 and crossed over the state border at Las Cruces, New Mexico to El Paso, Texas, we thought “Yay, we’re here.” Nope. Our destination was another 500 miles and even then we were only half way across the state. It takes forever to drive across it, so it might as well be another country.

    1. TexasAnon:
      But there was so much to see in those 500 miles! (Um… well, there were 500 miles to see.)

      1. TTPT here: I don’t know why I was put as Anonymous for my reply. Maybe Blogger is trying to tell me something? I certainly do feel anonymous sometimes these days.

    1. Walt the Fourth:
      And the Kid Brother and I did that one again last night. “I don’t know.” “Third base!”

  10. People should travel more, I am in favor of bringing back the grand tour as part of a complete education.

    1. David:
      I’d go back to school for that… well, no I wouldn’t but it sounded good. I worked with a woman, an educated long-term employee of the University of California, who told me she had absolutely no need to go to Europe because she visited Epcot every year and already knew it all very well.

  11. Funny how conventional geography can be. In Germany, as I recall, there are 5 continents; Antarctica doesn’t count because it it not permanently inhabited, and N and S America are considered one continent. Come to think of it, the only reason Europe is a separate continent is that the Europeans invented the idea in the first place.

    And no, they don’t speak Latin in Latin America.

    I suppose there really is no alternative to “American,” given the name of the country. “Stater” doesn’t sound right. Of course, if you’re a UK national, your British, unless you’re from N Ireland and are Irtish – except in the political sense. Not all Irish are from Ireland. And many a foreigner gives up upon reaching the English, Scottish, Welsh distinction, learning that one can be British but not English.

    Your Canadian friend should have responded to the Aussie that they really loved it there in New Zealand!

  12. PS: The mayor of the District of Columbia (yet another confusion) stated she thought “New Columbia” would be a good name for the District if it became a state. Imagine the international havoc that would cause. Not to mention that the District was a legal entity actually before the nation of Columbia was established, so that “New Columbia” is actually “Old Columbia.”

  13. When publisher Al Neuharth founded USA Today, he was adamant that America never be used as a synonym for the United States, as that’s not the official name of the country. So, when you read that paper, it’s always the initials USA. That’s fine until, as wickedhamster points out, it comes time to substitute the term “Americans.” At that point the paper uses such awkward phrases as “USA people” or “people in the USA”. Let’s face it, “America” is just more poetic-sounding than “United States”

    “United States, United States,
    God shed his grace on thee…”

    IF God really wants to shed his grace, then he should come with a more elegant name that’s not already taken.

    1. For years now, I’ve been on a very low key crusade to establish “bidget” as a word. It doesn’t exist in the dictionary, and I think it has a nice ring to it. It’s so evocative, but evocative of what is the question. I’ve yet to come up with a good meaning of the word. So it’s available. I can see it now… bidget: bí-djet, n., a citizen if the United States of America, e.g., This passport line is for bidgets only. bidgetine, n. a female citizen of the USA (obsol.)

  14. People who live in New Mexico are used to folks thinking they are aliens (in more ways than one). Same kind of thing happened to NM folks trying to order tickets back when the Olympics were held in the US (SLC, ATL). Had to be US citizen to buy certain tickets to the games, so of course, no one would sell them to people from NM since they were ‘foreigners.’ DMV in DC wouldn’t recognized the NM driver’s license of someone who moved there as being from a US state–never heard of it….and on and on. Pathetic.

    Envy Dale’s long legs (yours, too). Think the top of my head might have only reached her waist. Tad short.

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