Bucking the trend: Colombian President skips tuxedo at Spanish state dinner

The King and Queen of Spain with the President of Colombia and his wife during a state visit to Madrid.

Colombian President Petro breaks with traditional dress codes for state visits. Credit Casa S.M. el Rey

THE President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, caused a stir at the gala dinner hosted by the Spanish Royal Family on Wednesday, May 3 by refusing to wear a dress coat, arguing that the garment is associated with elites and anti-democracy.

Petro arrived at the Palacio Real in Madrid wearing a dark suit and a tie, declining to follow the strict dress code for the evening. The Colombian delegation that accompanied Petro also did not wear dress coats, which surprised some of the guests at the function.

The Colombian President followed in the footsteps of his compatriot and renowned literary figure, Gabriel García Márquez, who refused to wear a dress coat at the Nobel Prize ceremony in 1982 and opted for a white long-sleeved shirt, known as a ‘liquiliqui’, instead.

The dinner was attended by approximately 110 guests, including the Spanish King Felipe VI, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and other government officials.

The dinner featured a gourmet menu that included green salad, Mediterranean-inspired sea bass, and a cocoa bean dessert.

As part of the visit, gifts were exchanged between the Colombian delegation and the Spanish Royal Family. Petro and his wife were presented with crystal candelabras, a silver frame with a photograph of the king and queen, and a print of Madrid’s rooftops.

In exchange, Petro presented the king with a traditional Colombian hat, a book on the country’s national parks, and cufflinks. The queen was given a tray and emerald jewellery, while the princesses received indigenous backpacks.

While some may criticise Petro’s decision as inappropriate, others see it as a bold statement against the elitism and rigid formalities often associated with state visits and diplomatic events.

Petro’s unconventional approach to politics and diplomacy has made him a controversial figure, but also a popular one among those who share his vision for a more fair and just society.

Spain and Colombia have a long-standing relationship, with Spain being a former coloniser of the South American nation.

The two countries today have close political and cultural ties, with Spain being one of Colombia’s largest trading partners. In recent years, the relationship has focused on issues such as immigration, security, and drug trafficking.

The state visit by the Colombian president to Spain highlights the importance of maintaining strong diplomatic relations between the two countries.

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