The white city in the Valley of Cauca

I was not really fair to Popayan when we were there. I had not known that before we reached it but now I do: there are only so many gorgeous colonial cities I can really appreciate within a month or two. I was colonial-architecture-d out, I guess, and a little tempted to just read my book and later look at Donald’ photos.

I did like Popayan a lot (apart from the ridiculously heavy traffic). It is beautiful indeed, and it makes a lot of sense that Popayan should bare the nickname of ‘the white city’ – for the color of the vast majority of the old houses and palaces.

It was fascinating to see the fruits of the tremendous restoration efforts following the devastating earthquake in 1983. Many buildings were destroyed and later painstakingly rebuilt to their previous splendor.

During the colonial period Popayan blossomed due to its strategic location (between Lima, Quito and Cartagena) and was an important stop on the gold route to Spain.

Popayan is also known for its poets, artists and politicians (among them 17 Colombian presidents), as well as for the many educational institutions, including one of the oldest and most  highly appraised universities in Colombia: the University of Cauca, in existence for nearly two centuries.

Another thing that Popayan can be (and is) proud of is its position in the world of gastronomy. I had not even known such a title existed, but learned that UNESCO declared Popayan as the first city of gastronomy in 2005 ( The Easter Week procession has also attracted the attention of UNESCO and was declared ‘a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Patrimony of Humanity’. Apparently, the processions “are a major factor contributing to social cohesion and the local collective psyche” (here’s a description:
My local individual psyche just could not muster enough enthusiasm at the time to explore the city every minute I was there (the usual urge) and to look much beyond the few main streets and squares.
And yes, I do feel like a spoiled brat.


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