It’s been a unique experience driving and walking through this city compared to what I’m used to back home in Canada. The weather, religion, music, and dance culture have heavily influenced how this city looks and functions, and I’m glad I chose this city as my starting point for learning Spanish.
With average highs of 30 plus degree for every month of the year, Cali has adapted itself around this consistency. The malls and apartments that are built here have open courtyards running through their centers. Furthermore, it’s become uncommon for Mike and I to find a restaurant that doesn’t have an open patio or balcony to eat from. The markets are lined with umbrellas not to guard from the rain, but the heat, and hot water isn’t even an option in our apartment. On a social front, there are large parks in every neighbourhood it seems where people gather to walk their dogs, practice yoga, busk, sell artworks, or sell trinkets they’ve made with their own hands. There still aren’t many tourists, aside from during the “Feria”, but apparently the vendors and encompassing restaurants get a hold of enough money anyways. Finally, since Cali isn’t a very rich city, and people can get away with riding them all year round, most people drive motorcycles to get around. Like Thailand, they weave through stopped traffic to get to the front of the line, and cars have to wait an extra few seconds for all the bikes to clear in order to advance when the light turns green.
As for religion, Catholicism is predominant in Cali. Because of this, there are churches with traditional designs in different locations throughout the city. In addition, as a result of religion or not, traditional social customs are also followed. If you’re a man, it’s assumed that you pay for all the expenses that you and your date accumulate throughout the night. Moreover, it’s really important to Caleños that their partners meet their family and friends early on in the relationship. This is in order to get their approval. I was told that sometimes Caleñas bring their aunts or best friends on the first date as a surprise just to see if their date can handle the heat.
Lastly, there is the music and dance culture which go hand in hand. If there is music playing, there are people dancing. Not the unorganized flailing variety of dancing that you see in North American clubs. These are set types of dance with actual technique to set types of music. The lyrics in the music express the matter of fact and rowdy culture of Colombia. Coupled with the Spanish language it creates music with subtle humour, romance, and a taste of pride (See songs below). In terms of dancing, Meringue, Cha-Cha-Cha, Bachata, and the ever most popular Salsa are all partner dancing that are present in and outside of clubs. When you go to a club, or you are out in the streets with a live band, you really are expected to dance to almost every song. They also have a “Chivas” option where you can dance salsa on a sort of wide bus as it does a tour around town. Contrary to what I am used to anyways, lol, women don’t really have a hesitancy in saying yes when you ask them to dance either. Dancing 1-on-1 here is seen more as an opportunity to practice and have respectful fun. If you dance here it’s just a dance, albeit a dance on a whole other level sexually, amicably, and technically.
All of these aspects to Cali culture funnel into their Christmas celebrations called “La Feria”. For Caleños, celebrations start on the 18th and go to the 30th. The main events and full orchestras start on the 25th, but small bands are already playing downtown with streets packed every night. Over the last month and a half that Mike and I have stayed in Cali, we’ve really tried to take in as much culture as we can. To me, the most important aspect to Cali’s culture is its entertainment. The more lyrics and dance moves we learn for instance, the more we feel that comical vibe of being able to laugh at yourself, or that matter of fact attitude Caleños employ in order to accomplish goals. Caleños don’t need to look pretty, in fact they probably have a few scars. On top of that they’re probably proud of them.
Some songs about Cali :
Cali, Pachanguero: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KxkMLAZlzw
Las Caleñas son como las flores: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUNc4-tP7BA
Oiga, Mire, Vea – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy_Bp-ce8oc
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