Colombian community mourns the man who gave 'Londombia' its nickname

London's Colombian community is mourning a man who chronicled the community in a popular online newsletter and who is also believed to be the first to use the term 'Londombia.'

The 'icon' who published a popular web newsletter for the city's growing Colombian population remembered

Owned by Juan Hernandez, who originally hails from El Salvador, Hernandez Variety on Thompson Road is a regular stop for Londoners who hail from Central and South America. Hernandez has been doing a brisk trade in country flags since the World Cup kicked off. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

In London's Colombian community, this is a June of mixed emotions.

On one hand, there's the fever-pitch excitement about the team's play in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

But tempering all the soccer talk is the recent passing of an "icon" among London Colombians, a man who published a popular web newsletter devoted to the community and who is believed to be the first person to coin the term "Londombia."

Jose Briceno, who died June 3, wrote a popular web newsletter that chronicled news and events in London's Colombian community. He's believed to be the one who gave the community its unique nickname: 'Londombia.' (Colombia En London)

That man was José Briceño Medina, who died on June 3. He was 76.

For years, Briceño published Colombian En London, an online newsletter devoted to news about the Colombian community in London and abroad. 

Juan Hernadez owns Hernandez Variety on Thompson Road in south London. 

His store is a regular stop for Spanish-speaking Londoners with roots in Central and South America. It's a place where customers can pick up some empanadas, catch up on what's happening in the community and send money and packages back home. 

Hernadez, who himself hails from El Salvador, says Briceño will be missed as both a friend and someone whose work on the newsletter provided an important service to the community. 

"He was well known, not just in London, but everywhere," said Hernandez. "We don't have anyone else like him anymore here." 

On most days, loading Colombian En London into a web browser would bring up news about London's Colombian community, which numbers more than 10,000. 

Juan Hernandez, right, and his son Pedro have been busy behind the counter at Hernandez Variety on Thompson Road this week. Although he hails from El Salvador, Hernandez is keeping a close eye on Colombia's fate in the World Cup. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

But since Briceño's death, the page simply displays his picture and a message in Spanish: "You will always be in our hearts. Thank you very much." 

Liliana Lara was born in Colombia but has lived in London for the past 15 years. 

She says Briceño was the first to use the term "Londombia" to describe the community. 

"Jose was one of the first Colombians working in the local media in our community," she said. "A lot of people read him. And he was always involved in events and being present in the community. So he was an icon."

Liliana Lara says members of London's Colombian community number more than 10,000. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

And so the World Cup celebration will go on without Briceño, but Hernandez says his friend won't soon be forgotten. 

"He is still here with us enjoying the Colombian team playing in the World Cup." 


Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.