Rewind to Tuesday, January 10. Poland’s foreign minister is in New York to drum up support for his country’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council in 2018-’19. And it’s going well, Witold Waszczykowski tells the assembled Polish press corps: “I have had meetings with officials from more than 20 countries, including some Caribbean nations with which we have never had bilateral diplomatic contact before. Countries like Belize, and San Escobar”.
The Belizeans must have been delighted. But the San Escobarians can’t have been: that country simply does not exist. Poland’s internet community picked up quickly on the gaffe, and directed howls of derision at Waszczykowski. A foreign ministry spokesperson tried to limit the damage by hastily explaining that the minister, tired after a 22-hour flight, had simply misspoken: he was actually referring to St Kitts and Nevis, a two-island Caribbean state known in Spanish as San Cristóbal y Nieves.
To no avail: it was too late. By the end of the week, San Escobar was a many-splendoured reality, albeit an entirely virtual one, and one whose main raison d’être seemed to be to mock the minister and his right-wing government. Witold Waszczykowski had inadvertently created one of the new year’s first major internet memes.