In 2016, the Colombian authorities and the FARC rebels signed a historic peace deal, ending half of a century of civil struggle and establishing the floodgates for tourism.
Last yr, greater than 4 million foreigners visited the united states of America, up from only 1.3 million a decade in the past. And while the towns of Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin top most travelers’ lists, best one in 20 visits Santiago de Cali, or Cali for quick, a hot, colorful, humming metropolis of 2.7 million inside the valley of the Cauca River inside u. S .’s south.
Cali, you notice, suffers an awful picture perpetuated by way of over-the-pinnacle Hollywood productions like Netflix’s smash-hit series Narcos. In the Eighties and 1990s, Cali was one of the maximum dangerous cities within the international – a hotbed of medication, weapons, bombs, and violence, where energy lay no longer with corrupt government officers but in the fingers of the Rodriguez brothers, founders of the Cali Cartel, one of the most powerful crime syndicates in records.
But the Rodríguez brothers are locked away in American prisons and Cali is gentrifying. Crime continues to be a problem but has fallen gradually because of facts-pushed answers – like banning the carrying of firearms on paydays and tightening overdue-night liquor legal guidelines – that treat violence as public fitness trouble. Between 1993 and 2018, the metropolis’s murder charge tumbled eighty two%, in line with Apolitical, a web aid for public servants.
As the best metropolis in Colombia with get entry to to the Pacific Coast (through Buenaventura, a port city 115km to the north-west), Cali has a completely unique history and flavour. Starting in the sixteenth Century, Spanish slavers shipped tens of heaps of Africans thru Buenaventura to work in the substantial sugarcane plantations surrounding Cali – reworking it into the Afro-Latin capital of Colombia and converting the subculture of the town.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, sailors touchdown in Buenaventura brought vinyl statistics proposing an infectious new fashion of track from New York City that blended Cuban Mambo and Puerto Rican rhythm and style: los angeles salsa. Today, Cali is the self-declared salsa capital of the world, with a different sped-up style known as salsa caleña that jewelry out from bars, corner stores and dance faculties across the town.
Add 12 months-round summer weather, rip-snorting mountain motorbike trails, scrumptious Afro-Colombian meals and a heat, welcoming humans, and you may see why Cali is Colombia’s coolest comeback metropolis. “Cali es Cali señoras, señores. Lo demás es loma [Cali is Cali, ladies and gentlemen. The rest is nothing],” sing Colombian salsa band Grupo Niche.
There are more than 2 hundred registered salsa schools in Cali. The oldest academies are observed inside the town centre, even though foreigners generally tend to gravitate in the direction of dance colleges in San Antonio, a historic hilltop district with cobblestone streets that is been reinvented as Cali’s hipster haven. Fronting the almost three hundred-year-old whitewashed San Antonio Church and park in which buskers sing conventional salsa within the early evening, Arrebato Caleño is one the maximum popular salsa schools inside the location.
“Even though we didn’t invent salsa in Cali, we expropriated it and began a style that is very speedy – the quickest within the international,” said the college’s founder Nhora Alejandra Tomar. “Legend says it started out whilst a DJ become playing at a nightclub and the report player turned into faulty and performed the music too speedy. But in preference to stopping, the humans cherished it and started out dancing quicker and quicker.”
Tomar says dance travelers had been coming to Cali to find out salsa for decades. But their numbers have soared for the reason that peace deal and height all through the metropolis’s largest annual salsa events: the Salsa World Festival in September and the Cali Fair in December, when thousands of dancers decked out in shiny clothes fill the streets and live concert events featuring Grupo Niche and a number of the first-class salsa bands in Colombia thrill crowds from sunset to sunup from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve.
Despite its dizzying pace, Tomar says salsa caleña is not hard to research. “But it’s very addictive,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of travelers who got here to Cali for a few days to analyze salsa and ended up staying for months or years, or get married to a local and live right here for precise.”