Bulevar de la Avenida Colombia (Colombia Avenue Boulevard)
Also known as “The River Boulevard” — because it’s located on the banks of the Cali River — is the city’s largest boulevard.
It quickly became a meeting place for Cali’s locals and tourists alike. Because of its location, the boulevard is surrounded by several features of historical interest. As a result, it also became a cultural center of the city. Often, you can see different artistic and cultural exhibitions being held here.
One of the main features of the boulevard are its monuments and sculptures, such as the bust dedicated to Haitian hero Alexandre Petion, as well as various cat-sculptures, known collectively as “Gatos de Tejada” (more on this below).
During the holidays, the boulevard becomes the center of lighting in this part of the city, causing a large influx of visitors to gather and watch the Christmas decorations, and witness the various cultural and artistic events which are held here on those dates.
Gatos de Tejada (Tejada’s Cats)
Hernando Tejada who moved to Cali from Bogota at the age of 14, and died there in 1998.
In Cali, there is a whole park dedicated to his famous “Cats”. This park is aptly named Parque de Los Gatos, or “Cats Park”. Another common name is “Parque El Gato de Tejada”.
El Gato del Rio (River Cat)
The “piece de resistance” of the park itself is the main sculpture: El Gato del Rio (or, River Cat).
The “El Gato del Rio” is a three-ton bronze sculpture. It came to the city as part of a municipal improvement project designed to beautify the banks of the Cali river on the city’s north side. 10 years later, in 2006, the project expanded to include 15 smaller felines — all cast in the same shape — which other local artists subsequently painted as well. These days, cats aren’t the only ones in the park, though: you’ll find plenty of humans and interestingly enough, a lot of dogs as well (LOL).
Iglesia de la Merced (Church and Convent of Our Lady of Mercy)
Begun around 1545, Iglesia de la Merced is Cali’s oldest church. It’s a lovely whitewashed building in the Spanish colonial style, with a long, narrow nave, and humble wood and stucco construction. Inside, a heavily gilded baroque high altar is topped by the Virgen de las Mercedes, the patron saint of the city.
Sugarcane is Cali’s biggest export.
During the first decades of the 20th century, industrialization began in Colombia. The fast expansion of the sugarcane market allowed for the implementation of industrial plantations. At that point, plantations arose, such as Riopalia of the Caicedo family, Providencia of the Cabal family, and Mayagüez of the Hurtado Holguín family. These continue to be the primary producers of sugarcane in the country.
Afterwards, the plantations of Valle del Cauca province greatly expanded in the period known as “La Violencia”, between 1946 and 1958, leading to the consolidation of their control over the sugarcane market in Colombia. During this period, two million people were forcibly removed from their lands, and together lost 350 thousand properties. Valle del Cauca was the department with the largest number of forcibly removed families. Close to one million people lost 98,400 properties in the province.
Currently, the conglomerate Ardila Lülle is one of the largest producers of sugarcane in Colombia. Its origins are in the soda industry, which it monopolized to such an extent that, currently, only Coca-Cola is able to compete with the company (since Lülle bought out the Colombian Pepsi Co. subsidiary). Ardila Lülle fully owns the Cauca sugarcane plantation, 52% of the Providencia plantation, and 35% of the Risaralda plantation — which was founded in 1979 with investment from the Coffee Growers’ Foundation, the Colombian state, and the Western Financial Corporation.
“El Trapiche” can be translated as “sugar mill”, or “sugarcane mill”. However, the term is also used for those cute, little “street sugar-mills”, on which the vendors manually “refine” the sugarcanes, to produce a very sweet, fresh juice, known as “Guarapo“.
During the time I was in Cali, I drank at least 3 cups of Guarapo each day (haha). I couldn’t get enough of it :=)