The pictures – which quickly went viral on the Internet -- show Clinton, surrounded by State Department staff members and her security detail, at a Cuban-themed bar called Café Havana, smiling and posing for snapshots, dancing the rhumba, and sipping a bottle of beer.
Witnesses told local media that Clinton’s party ordered a dozen beers, two shots, and bottles of water and left the waiter a $40 tip.
Asked about Clinton’s night out at today’s State Department briefing, spokesman Mark Toner downplayed the fuss.
“I can confirm that she, indeed, did have a very good time and was just enjoying some of the nightlife in Cartagena with colleagues," he said. "It’s kind of a 'dog-bites-man' story. There’s nothing to it."
“The New York Post” broke the story, headlining it, “Hillary Havana Heck of a Good Time” and writing:
Dozens of online media sites quickly picked up the story and wrote their own headlines: “Who Wouldn’t Want to Share A Beer With Hillary?” and, “Hillary Gets Down In Colombia!”
Delighted readers have lit up online comment boards with mostly approving comments:
-- "Go get ’em Hillary, you are not doing anything anybody else wouldn't do. Nothing wrong with letting your hair down from time to time."
-- "Go Hill! Nice to see a smile on your face!"
-- "Never used to be a big Hillary fan, but she's gaining more points in my book. LOVE this!"
The light-hearted celebration is especially notable because Clinton has a reputation as one of the hardest-working secretary of states in modern history, as one online commenter on Politico noted:
"If there is any member of this administration worthy of a beer and some down time...it's Hillary Clinton. Have little use for her politics but her work ethic is impeccable."
Of course, not everyone agrees.
"North Korea firing missiles...Afghan bombers blowing up embassies...Syria rioting...Iran making more threats...Why should our secretary of state be concerned with any of it?” one man wrote.
Another criticized Clinton for “[urging] more violence in places like Libya and Syria and...threatening Iran."
Not surprisingly, photographic proof that Clinton is just like everyone else who likes a cold beer and a bit of fun after a hard day's work sent political observers rushing to interpret it through the lens of the 2016 presidential election, which she insists she’s not planning to run in:
"Clinton letting her hair down is the kind of thing that would play well in that presidential run in 2016 that some of her supporters have suddenly started talking about in the last few weeks,” wrote one.
Another called the photos “humanizing and helpful for 2016.” Yet another said bluntly, "That Hillary photo is good press for 2016."
Even a few Republican Party loyalists seem to have been won over.
After seeing the pictures, someone named Glenn wrote, “I am a devout Republican and rarely have anything nice to say about Hillary; however, to see that bright smile on her face, after always having that down-and-out and beaten look of late, I found it a bit refreshing. After all, even Hillary, deserves a little pick-me-up once in a while. Not too much though. GO ROMNEY -- 2012!”
Well, temporarily won over.
-- Heather Maher