The Valley of Cauca has traditional cuisine and food and visitors of Cali can enjoy a special part of Colombian cuisine. For its relative proximity to the Pacific Ocean the city has a strong identification with food from the sea, and on the other hand some dishes with ingredients such as rice and potatoes were born inside the Valley of Cauca. The sweet recipes are the most famous because the area is the leader region of Colombia in production of sugar cane.
The sancocho is very famous in Cali. It is a traditional soup (stew) made of potato, plantain and yucca, and may be accompanied by chicken or hen. Vegetables, coriander leaves and pepper are included in the soup. There is a huge variety of sancochos of fishes, ranging from red snapper, robalo and bocachico.
Very delicious is aborrajado, a fried cheese-filled plantain, and chontaduro (fruit of the palm), a local delicacy that is sold on the street and can be eaten with salt or honey. Bocadillo (guava paste) is quite popular in the gastronomic culture of Cali and is usually eaten with slice of fresh cuajada cheese.
Manjarblanco is a candy made from cooked sugar and milk, similar to arequipa (dulce de leche). In Cali it is very traditional because it is served in a coconut shell. The best one that you can get in the shops is called Manjarblanco del Valle. But I was lucky as a friendly local woman that I met, brought me to the place where they made it at home. Very popular is also cholado, a mix of crushed ice, fruit and/or fruit syrup and sweetened condensed milk. It is often sold by Cali's street vendors.
Finally, we have to include some delicious juices and drinks. Borojo juice, made from the tropical fruits from the jungle, is quite popular. Borojo is a highly energetic and nutritious fruit. It is commonly used because of its aphrodisiac and medicinal properties. It is known to has a very high percentage of phosphor and a high protein content. Champú, a thick drink, made with ground maize, lulo and pineapple (sweetened with panela and seasoned with cinnamon), is a great delicacy that only in Cali and Valle del Cauca department can be found.
Being the third Latino American city with the biggest density of African population after Havana (Cuba) and Salvador de Bahia (Brazil), Cali has got the honour to be the seat of Festival de la Marimba. Marimba is believed to have originated in Africa, but it has been a part of Colombian culture since a long time.
The chonta (palm tree) marimba is the main instrument of the Colombian South Pacific. Black men, brought to America as slaves, build it out of their memories, using the materials which can be found on the new land. It's a typical percussion instrument of this traditional musical area. There are a lot of songs and rhythms, and in musical terms it is possible to distinguish the following rhythms: juga, bambuco viejo, bunde, patacoré and pango.
Primer Festival de la Marimba (First Festival of Marimba) was a festival within 51 Feria de Cali, and took place from 27th to 29th of December 2008 on Plazoleta de San Francisco (06:00pm-11:00pm). Some of the best groups performed and at the end they select the best instrumentalist and the Marimba King. Call-and response interplay between women's voices, insistent pummeling rhythms on various percussion instruments, and marimba dominate the arrangements. This was my first encounter with marimba and I very much enjoyed it!!
Primer Festival de la Marimba
Gualajo, live from the festival
Feria de Cali (Cali fair) is the main cultural event in the city, Colombian premier salsa event with some of the best national and international salsa orchestras. It runs from Christmas to New Year, December 25th to December 30th, and it has been celebrated since 1957. For one week people enjoy many activities, parties and parades. The festival is home to a multitude of salsa concerts and shows, the fair also includes a number of other activities such as cabalgada (horseback riders parade), bullfighting (which I find unpleasant so I avoided it, sports competitions, salsa contests, cultural exhibitions and beauty pageant to select Señorita Cali.
It has been a long time since I wanted to visit this this famous festival. I finally made it to Cali and attended the 51 Feria de Cali (in December 2008). The inauguration took place on a big stadium and it was free (though it took us almost two hours to get in). The festival started with parades of salsa schools and the festival officially opened with a firework, followed by concerts of three top Colombian (La Gran Banda Caleña, El Grupo Niche and Guayacan Orquesta) and one Cuban orchestra (Los Van Van). The inauguration event was spectacular: excellent music and great party atmosphere! People were dancing, singing, drinking and having fun. When we were leaving I could not believe that all together it took seven hours. Time has just flown away.
more pics in the travelogue and home page album
presentation of salsa world champions
Though the real highlight of the festival for me was the concert of Yuri Buenaventura in Teatro Jorge Isaacs (the ticket was 35.000 COP). This was certainly the biggest surprise and one of the best concerts I've ever seen. I'm so grateful that Andres and Natalie, a Colombian/German couple, my dear new friends and companions during the whole festival, told me about him. A very convenient ambience of the beautiful Teatro Jorge Isaacs and a superb performance of Yuri Buenaventura!!
Cali has some of the most beautiful Christmas lights and decorations I've ever seen. Every December they put the huge figures, representing different themes from Cali's traditions, such as salsa musicians and salsa dancers, fruit and cholado vendors, pandebono baking, and also the typical Christmas scenes (Holy family, church) around the river. Some of the figures with other themes stay there during the whole year. Those figures are made of plastic and they are an interesting attraction at day and even more at night when they are illuminated.
The beautiful lights run all along the Cali River in the city centre and a huge park by the river. Thousands of people visit this park every night in December to see the Christmas lights and many events. Music is playing in every corner and typical Colombian food, such as arepas, tamales, buñuelos, is served by the many stands. People are very happy. You can feel the real Colombian Christmas spirit. It's magic!!
more pics in the travelogue
Christmas Lights video
Cali is known as the Capital de la Salsa and the sensuous tropical rhythms of salsa pervade the lives of Caleños. You'll hear it on every bus or taxi, there's salsa on almost all of the many local radio stations. All over town, 24-hours a day, salsa blasts from speakers on the street, in parks, shops, from cars and homes. Cali lives and breaths salsa. There are salsa dance schools through the city and it's important to dance very well. Salsa classes are not just the place to go for learning, they are a good meeting place as well.
You don't have to go far in this city to hear all the different styles and variations of salsa. The eastern suburb Juanchito is heart of Cali's salsa nightlife where you'll find some of the best salsotecas. Most of them have live salsa music. Cali has many excellent world class groups and musicians of salsa, blending the old with the new.
Grupo Niche - Una Aventura
Grupo Niche - Buenaventura y Caney
Son de Cali - Que Nos Paso
Guayacan Orquesta - Ay Amor
Yuri Buenaventura - Ne me quittes pas
Yuri Buenaventura - Una belle histoire
I found one of the most enjoyable things in Cali strolling the quiet streets of the old neighbourhood of San Antonio. The streets are lined with picturesque colonial houses, many of them are adorned with decorative ceramic tiles, azulejos. Most often they are made from glazed ceramic.
In colonial times decorative ceramic tiles were widely used to decorate walls, windows, floors and even ceilings. Some houses are decorated with ceramic tiles which have religious motives. Instead of usual metal signs, even the houses are marked with ceramic tiles numbers. It's delightful. You can find more pictures in the travelogue.
Cali is also full of graffiti and murals. Some of them are real pieces of art and I love such street art! They give a special character to the city. More pictures are found in two of the street art travelogues
The lulada was a local beverage sensation made primarily of lulo, a tart fruit grown only in the Valle de Cauaca. It was evidently very popular at one time but has since fallen a bit by the wayside, due perhaps to the influx of other cheaper soft drinks. Whatever the reason, it would be a shameful loss if this great drink completely disappeared so by all means, if you like such things, seek it out. It's well worth the effort. We only found it in one place called Frutas de Occidente on Carrera 5 in the heart of the downtown area. It is a thick, milkshake-like beverage chuck full of lulo. To offset the supreme sourness of this tart fruit, generous amounts of dulce de leche (sweetened condensed milk of sorts) are added along with cream I believe. The overall effect is heavenly. We had many great beverages while in Colombia, but this one was tops for us. It was a hefty 4800 COP ( nearly $2.50) and this price tag may also have something to do with its waning popularity. It is indeed what you can get a whole meal for in Colombia but that said, it is a very filling, dense drink and more or less a meal in itself. If you are in Cali, by all means try one. It may help keep this traditional drink alive. I know not only that if we go back to Cali, we'll have one but very likely it is one of the main reasons we would go back! That's how good it was.
Every year in December La Plazoleta del CAM is a scene for the celebration of Día del Pacífico, where the communities of African descendants of Valle del Cauca and the Pacific coast of Choco represent their culture and traditions. In 2009 this was a festival within 52 Feria de Cali but usually it takes place earlier in December.
The sound of marimba (the main instrument of the Colombian South Pacific) and currulao (one of the most African influenced musical styles in all of Colombia, it has its roots among Black people of the Pacific coast) predominate. You can try typical food of the Colombian Pacific coast, from sancocho de pescado to exotic dishes, such as encocado de jaiba, sancocho de ñato and sudao de piangua. Here you get the sweetest cocadas, most delicious fruits of the region and champús. For those who prefer aphrodisiac drinks, there are viche, tumbacatre and tomaseca.
Among other things, you can appreciate beautiful handicrafts typical of the Pacific region, made from bamboo, and from natural fibres and seeds, such as jewellery, kitchen utensils, bags, hats, boxes, baskets and music instruments.
more pics in the travelogue
Día del Pacífico video
With the intention to promote salsa culture which characterizes the city of Cali was inaugurated the first Encuentro de Bailarines y Bailadores (Meeting of Professional and Amateur Dancers). The event was part of the program of 52Feria de Cali (it runs from Christmas till the New Year) and it took place in Teatro al Aire Libre Los Cristales. The event brings together enthusiastic amateur dancers as well professionals.
36 groups were represented, most of them from Cali districts. They participated in Primer Encuentro de Bailarines y Bailadores. But they not only dance salsa; they sing and listen to it and support young talents (video). As in Brazil, where they bring up professional samba dancers from the early years, Cali does the same with salsa through more than hundred schools and academies in every district of the city. El Encuentro is the opportunity for hundreds of artists that vibrate to the rhythm of salsa, to discover new talents and thus open the doors for the future dancers of Salsódromo.soon
Is is say and is true, in CALI, you find the most beautifull women in the world. If you dont belive, just ask anyone. The skin color, their sensuality and their karma, makes this great attraction to the city of Cali
THE CHOLOS INDIANS. This is a tribe that lives on the pacific coast, where the River San Juan dies on the ocean. The indians are not wild or anything like that, in fact they are nice people with a hard working live which have lived from centuries in the jungle. The handcraft things made by them are unique and beautiful. Many years ago, the used topless dresses, but with the invations of tourist, they started to cover up themselves with tshirts that were exchanged by their handcraft (WHAT A SHAME).
HERNANDO TEJADA: The most important artist of Cali, and well known in Colombia and international. He was born in Cali and died in 1998. He left us with legacy of cultural art that defines the spirits of nature and his mother land. His works of art are found every where you in Cali (Parks, Zoo, restaurants, etc.
Sancocho de Gallina: Kitchen soup. I the typical dish of Cali. I will revert with the recipe. If you visit Cali, your trip will not be complete if you dont try the typical SANCOCHO DE GALLINA