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A reported blog on happenings around Latin America.

A man plays his guitar during the Flower Festival on August 4, 2010.

A country known for violence gets to present a friendlier face to the world this week.

Colombia is playing host to the Under-20 World Cup and to Medellin's annual flower festival.

The U-20 is Colombia’s biggest-ever international sports event and many Colombians view it as their nation’s coming-out party. The Colombian newsweekly Semana called the awarding of the tournament to Colombia “a sign of the country’s progress.”

The annual "Feria de las Flores" in Medellin started in 1957 to honor the region’s booming flower industry. Today flowers are a billion-dollar-a-year industry for Colombia, the world's largest exporter of flowers after the Netherlands. An estimated 65 to 70 percent of all flowers sold in the U.S. come from Colombia.

After years of murder and war, foreign investment is flowing into the country and tourists are returning. Colombians are eager to show off the country’s improved security, booming economy and natural beauty.

So do flowers and soccer reflect the new Colombia? Or are they hiding a reality of rising murder rates and government corruption?

Traditional
Children participate in a parade during the Flower Festival in Medellin, on July 31, 2010. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

A traditional
A boy takes part in a parade during the Flower Festival on July 31, 2010. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

Children participate in the Flower Festival parade.
Children participate in a parade during the Flower Festival on Aug. 1, 2009. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

A child carries a traditional
Children carry a traditional "Silleta" that reads "No more violence" during a parade for the Flower Festival on Aug. 1, 2009. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

A Colombian actor stands next to a traditional
A Colombian actor participates in the parade for the Flower Festival on Aug. 7, 2009. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

The Spanish U-20 national soccer team practices.
The Spanish U-20 national soccer team practices in Manizales, Colombia, during the FIFA U-20 World Cup. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images)

A French soccer player battles a Colombian soccer player for the ball.
French player, Timothy Kolodziejczak, and Colombian player, James Rodriguez, vie for the ball during the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Bogota, Colombia. (Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images)

A Colombian supporter cheers on his team during the U-20 World Cup.
A Colombia supporter cheers on his team during the first round of the U-20 World Cup. (Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)

Hannah McGoldrick contributed to this story.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephaniegarlow

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/que-pasa/colombia-u20-world-cup-flower-festival