Universidad Autónoma de Occidente (UAO)
This is la Universidad Autónoma de Occidente, the local university where we take our classes. Most students only take one class here, but a few take two. Options range from film analysis to Pacific history and culture. We have been able to meet and befriend local Colombians here and practice our Spanish in class.
La Loma de La Cruz
For our Spanish class, we visited Loma de la Cruz. Here, you can find couples relaxing together, kids running around, free family-style comedy acts, and many small artisanal stores. The park is situated on top of a hill in the beautiful San Antonio neighborhood, and at night, you can meet other foreign exchange students or tourists who reside in hostels nearby. La Loma also has a beautiful view of the city below and los farallones, the mountain range that bisects Valle del Cauca.
El Petronio is a festival hosted in Cali celebrating Pacific and Afro music, food, and culture. The festival is a four-day long experience, with people flying in from all over Colombia and neighboring countries to celebrate Black Pacific culture. All of our Colombian roommates, teachers, and university friends insisted that we had to go to this— and they were right. The stadium that hosted Petronio was PACKED, and the energy was unmatched. To see representation and celebration of Afro-culture on this level was simply beautiful.
A few weeks ago, we went on a trip to Siloé. A part of Cali that has historically been a very contested area. We walked up the large hill that defines the comuna and were able to take a ski-lift-of-sorts down. Here, racial and ethnic identity are very intertwined with the history of Siloé. The territory has seen continued violence from state police forces and occupation by narcotraficantes and pandillas. In talking to people here, we could see this manifest in their daily lives. People viewed the police as not welcome in the community while also asserting their autonomy to the narcotraficantes and pandillas in the area.
My Colombian roommate is a freestyle rapper in his spare time! He has taken me to freestyle events both downtown and at his university, la Universidad del Valle. Cali has a vibrant freestyle community, with college-age rappers ranging from amateurs to those in professional leagues. Everybody comes together to celebrate how people can express themselves through this art, and the community is super supportive and tight-knit.
El Monumento de la Resistencia
In West Cali, there is a neighborhood known as Aguablanca. We visited a specific site here, El Monumento de la Resistencia, for our Race and Ethnicities class. The monument here commemorates the bravery protestors showed in the November 2021 tax hike protests. As an area that is heavily Afro-Colombian, these protests represented standing up to the government and making it hear the voices of the people who lived here, despite the ways it tried to suppress their movement. Today, the monument towers over a busy intersection where people drive to and from work, symbolizing that the spirit of the neighborhood is still alive.