Cali, Colombia: Walking into Music and Heaven: — The North Star Reports – by Daniela Ortiz. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Cali, Colombia: Walking into Music and Heaven: — The North Star Reports – by Daniela Ortiz. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Cali Overview

Sometimes we criticize Americans for not knowing the geography of their own country or for not visiting towns, cities or states that are over the geographical borders of their comfort zone. But, do I know my country completely?

Sometimes, we think that what is excellent is what is out of our hands, out of our borders and out of our country. Being Colombian I always hear bad comments about the security of my country or the terms “a country in development”. I do not blame people from whom I hear those comments, because the media just shows Colombia like a third world country in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest full of gunshots, warlords commanding our government and the local police as drug dealers. An idea completely ignorant about the real country in which I was happily born. Do not watch CNN or any other news media that displays Colombia as a bombarding camp, instead watch Anthony Bourdain’s show: No Reservations. I’m sure that in one way or another you would wonder why once believed what you imagined Colombia to be, before.


Well, I would like to share with all of you my immersion in the Colombian city of Salsa: Cali. This city, in the southwest of Colombia, is a city embellished by the sweet taste of sugar mixed with the excited energized musical notes of Salsa. A city governed by a Jesus that watches the city at 85 feet, where there is no doubt that the happiest people live and talk like if they were singing to you, people who are thankful to live in such God’s masterpiece.

Cali, is a city in which traffic is not a problem or a stress like in Bogota. This City is warm within a temperature of 86 °F. Where the Cauca River passes over the city and decks, walking roads, Chapels and seats are over the river.

empanadas, aborrajados picture

The best thing that you can do when you first visit Cali is to drink a Lulada, a citric acid beverage made of a tropical fruit called Lulo, it is served in a big glass with cold water, ice and majestic chunks of this fruit. You would be suddenly refreshed and awaken by the acid and thankful of having this beverage in a city full of salsa. There is a famous place called El Obelisco where you can eat all the typical dishes of Cali’s typical food. For example one main dish is the Sancocho Valluno, this is a soup made of hen, chicken, pork ribs, yucca, corn, chives, tomato, garlic, coriander and green plantain. Another dish that you can add to your check are the Empanadas Vallunas, which are a fried corn flour dough filled with chicken, beef, potato of the region ( little yellow potato), thyme, scallion and garlic. Besides, you can dip your empanada in a tomato, thyme, garlic, pepper sauce. And if you are looking for a bigger dish you can order Chuleta Valluna. It is pork Milanese covered with garlic, cumin, a mix of egg and bread crumbs, which is later fried. Something that you can’t forget to eat are the majestic Aborrajados… These are sweet plantains breaded, with cheese and bocadillo (guava jelly) and then fried. As you can see there are different dishes and beverages that you can enjoy in this city. Other ones are Pandebono, Champus and Patacón con hogao; dishes that even members of the famous band Kool and the Gang specifically demanded when they came to Colombia in 1985.


There are many places that you can visit in this musical city like the Cats Park. This is an urban park where you can discover different cats as you walk by. Each cat was sculpted by Alejandro Valencia Tejadas. At the beginning of the park is the Cat of the River ( El Gato del Rio), a cat of 11.5 ft. made of bronze and donated by the sculptor and painter Hernando Tejada.


Along the park are the girlfriends of the cat; each one with different patterns, colors, designs and characteristics. There is Anabella the SuperStar Cat (Anabella la Gata Super Estrella), the Bandit Cat ( La Gata Bandida), the Flirty Cat ( La Gata Coqueta), among others.


One of the advantages of Cali is that it has many parks that are well preserved. There are a lot of possibilities to enjoy nature. For example you can go to El Lago de la Babilla, or the Lake of the little crocodile. Here you can see colorful ducks, iguanas, frogs, herons, squirrels, armadillos and bats. And if you want to see even more animals you can visit the Cali Zoo, it is a well-constructed zoo easy to walk through, with astonishing animals and fun facts.

On the other hand, a place that you would like to visit is Cristo Rey, this is an 85 ft. monument of Christ located in the west part of the city in the Crystals Hill. This monument was inaugurated on October 25 in 1953, it was made for celebrating the 50 years of the end of the War of a Thousand Days.

Moreover, while I was in Cali something happened that its citizens would not forget ever. El Deportivo Cali won the Aguila Soccer League against El Independiente Medellin with a global score of 2-1. This is the greatest colombian soccer tournament for the soccer clubs. It was a Sunday at 9:00 p.m. when they won.

The city went wild, everyone was happy, screaming the achievement. Outside, on the streets all the cars were honking, there were rivers of people wearing the green shirt of El Deportivo Cali yelling and throwing flour. Indeed, Soccer is the most popular national sport in Colombia, so there were many fans excited to watch the final match. Cali was more joyful than ever, greener than ever and more insane than ever.

Last but not least, Cali is famous for being the capital of Salsa. So, let’s be real, you need to watch Salsa dancing, and you need to dance Salsa. If you have these two things in mind you could go to Delirio, the most famous show of Salsa, with 130 professional dancers that are expecting people like you, to cheer you up and make you dance inevitably. The ticket costs $55 and is from 7:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. Cali is the home for famous Salsa singers like Wilson Saoko.

Furthermore, Kukaramákara is another dance club where you can have a lot of fun salsa dancing, Changó Club is another one, Zúmbale, Corona Club, Sagsa, among others.

Honestly, in Cali there are many things that you can do. it is a city that has the most marvelous people in Colombia, it is famous for having the most beautiful women in the world, it has a variety of places to visit from parks, chapels to rhythmical dance clubs. After all, I did not have to go farther to be in paradise. This is an invitation to all of you, to immerse yourself in Cali and to not have any regrets after it. Cali es Cali y lo de más es loma.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Norway, northeastern China, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

22 responses to “Cali, Colombia: Walking into Music and Heaven: — The North Star Reports – by Daniela Ortiz. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

    • Connor

      I had never heard much about Colombia besides bad things: cartels, corrupt police, kidnappings/murder, etc. I suppose it’s a sign of the kind of news that is most often portrayed. I feel like a majority of the things reported about other countries feed on fear. It’s important to remember that there is a lot more to every country than we see on the news and that everywhere is home to somebody.

  1. Eleni Birhane

    This post has pushed my will to go visit Colombia into overdrive. I have always known that Colombia is a beautiful country with many treasures but, hearing it described so vividly has really caught my attention. I spent most of my freshman year with a friend who is Colombian. Whenever we traveled together we would scour the city/town to find places that serve authentic Colombian food. From what I have experienced the food is amazing. I truly wish that everybody gets the chance to try some of the different kinds of food from around the world. I also loved your statement about knowing where we all came from, I applaud you for your insights on the cities it in your country.

  2. Sarah Grace Devine

    As Americans we have this thought that to be a country with happy people and sophisticated culture the world needs to be like us, or to have a culture similar to those found in Western Europe. This article does a fantastic job of smashing that thought, I may not have personally experienced Colombian culture but I can feel the generations of people who have lovingly added to this way of life to make it uniquely their own. There is a cohesiveness to this culture that America lacks as a whole. We may have national pride, but we do not see one another as having the same culture or as being one family. Not that what America has is bad, it’s just much different, but there’s a “home” feeling to the way the writer describes their country that highlights the important part of being one people and one nation.

  3. Meghan Lozinski

    I found this entire article very interesting as I have never heard much about Colombia, good or bad. I have done some traveling and I have always found your statement about portrayal to be true, whenever I go somewhere, it is never as expected. Countries have so much more to offer than what the media might portray and nobody can truly experience anything you were describing without actually going and experiencing it themselves. Hopefully people can begin to realize this and get rid of their negative expectations or stereotypes of countries and its people.

  4. Jenna Algoo

    Wow! I adore your attention to detail in this article. How fantastic it is to have a positive spin on an area that not many people know about nor try to get to know. My family is also from a third world country, and your article is in a special place of my heart! There is always so much beauty, liveliness, and love in each and every part of the world and it’s so nice to read your passion of Colombia. If there is nobody willing to tell the beauty they see, then nobody will ever learn how to look at things differently.

  5. Bryce Gadke

    I thought it was quite interesting how you contrasted the CNN portrayal of Colombia with the description of the marvelously described city of Cali. It is important to not always believe the media when it comes to the analysis of the structure of a country. More beneficially one could travel to the country if given the means, or gain real life insight from someone that has actually spent a considerable amount time in the place. The preconceived notions I previously had of Colombia far differ from the elegant way that you described and I feel the blindspot identified here has taught me a great lesson and will continue to influence me in the future. The authentic food described in the publication sounds absolutely amazing and am very intrigued to try it in the future to the point where I will now seek out some of the types of food mentioned.

  6. Logan Davey

    I think it is great that you are standing up for your home country and letting people know the real truth about Colombia! My family has traveled to Costa Rica twice a year for the last eight years, so I’m curious as to how the two countries are alike. The food seems to be very different, but it sounds really good. Do you happen to have any ideas on a greater scale to help people to know the truth about Colombia? The country seems beautiful with lots of fun things to do. I hope I’m lucky enough to travel there someday!

  7. Rebecca Smith

    This has been by far one of my favorite articles to read on NSR. I love how descriptive you are in describing your home country and how you combat stereotypes that news sources display. I especially enjoyed your point in the beginning that “Sometimes, we think that what is excellent is what is out of our hands, out of our borders and out of our country.” While your whole essay reminded me of this video ( that I watched the other day, that specific quote was what initially triggered my memory. I think oftentimes we don’t really pay attention to our hometowns, states, or countries, even though there are wonderful things happening, so thank you for taking the time to write about your experience.

  8. Kimberly Acosta

    When Vang said “Cristo Rey”, it reminded me of my own high school, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Vang really made me feel like I could actually imagine everything she experienced. I could see myself visiting Colombia right now and see everything that was talk about with so much detail. This makes me excited about studying abroad.

  9. Jimmy Lovrien

    Early in your piece, you caution readers “Do not watch CNN or any other news media that displays Colombia as a bombarding camp…” Throughout the rest of the piece, you do a fine job of humanizing and showing a fair representation of Columbia. How do people from Columbia react when they see those reports? How have those media reports affected the perception held by U.S. students? That is, what are the consequences?

  10. Kaytlin Hintz-Knopf

    There are many times when I feel that, when we watch the news, we are only getting half the picture. This article showed me a whole other side of Columbia. The writing made everything so vivid! I love reading about different cultures and countries from the perspective of those who know it best. Thank you for your insight!

  11. Thomas Landgren

    I really am glad that you pointed out that the media tends to change a place by using stereotypes to describe it. People tend to follow everything the media says. The 21st century human tends to believe that the media is good and only reports news that is true, which at times can be false. I loved how you said “do not watch CNN or any other news media that displays Colombia as a bombarding camp.” and then you went throughout the entire article talking about the wonderful things you can do in Columbia. I will admit that the multiple paragraphs talking about the food there made me hungry (The descriptions made me think I had a plate right in front of me.) I also thought you hit the nail on the head when you said we often take our hometowns for granted. I’m from Duluth and just recently when I started college I came to realize there is so much to do, and I feel now that I will never become bored of this place. Great Article!

  12. Emily Hanson

    I loved reading this article because you captured the culture of Colombia in a way we aren’t exposed to very often. I’ve heard very little about the country from a “tourist” prospective. You always read the headlines about their government or something bad that has happened within their society, but your take of the beauty that it possesses is extremely important for us, as readers, to take in as well. Thank you for opening our eyes to a culture that has so much more to show for itself than just what CNN’s headlines tell us.

  13. The American media tends to distort the truth about other countries. The people of the United States often remain blind to the truth or are only told half truths because of the media. Sadly, I know many people (some very dear to me) that believe everything they see on the news and have told me their views of Columbia based on media representations. Many people believe all that they are told is the whole truth and forget to take what to take what they read and see with ‘a grain of salt’ and unfortunately miss out on the rich beauty and culture that exists around the world. However, your description of Cali was fantastic! I could feel the vibrancy of the city while I was reading. I also enjoyed the pictures you included!

  14. Kyle Hellmann

    Along with most of the comments, I have also never really heard much of life inside Columbia. It was wonderful reading about your new experience, even if it was in your own country! I’ve always been encouraged to go outside the U.S. to travel and I will eventually, but I know there are many different cultures and places I haven’t seen in my own country that I would love to immerse myself in. Thanks for sharing and those pictures are awesome!

  15. Matt Breeze

    This made me hungry! The way you describe the food as an element of culture is amazing and intriguing. All too often Americans, and myself in particular, think of countries through the light of CNN or other news media. This view of other nations can give a picture of violence and a dangerous place, where instead if I watched No Reservations it would be possible to see the beautiful culture and exquisite cuisine of another place. Maybe food should be the first introduction to any country, before politics or business people should sit down and have an authentic meal. This could make the whole would more peaceful, or at least I hope it would.

  16. Roman Schnobrich

    How do you find the stereotypes of America compare to what it’s actually like? Also, do you feel that Colombian media distorts America as much as American media does Colombia? I feel like the story of Pablo Escobar has somewhat permanently scarred Colombia and given it an unfortunate stigma of being a drug-ruled country. I’d love to visit it myself someday though, it sounds like such a unique and unfamiliar place.

  17. Deng Dimayuga

    I truly enjoyed reading your article. I grew up in a pueblo just outside of the city of Acapulco in Guerrero, Mexico. One of the things that fascinated me as a child was traveling to Acapulco and Chilpancingo, the large metropolitan cities in Guerrero, and trying all of the food there. Man, did it differ from the food my mother would cook at home. Now that I am older travel back to these cities and try to and taste the food that delighted the taste buds of my youth. Usually it’s not a fruitful venture, but I do find other food I enjoy. When I was a child I adored plantains, so the “the majestic Aborrajados… These are sweet plantains breaded, with cheese and bocadillo (guava jelly) and then fried.” Would have been right up my alley. These days I enjoy spices, so it has opened up a world of different food options.

  18. Laura Blasena

    I definitely agree with your opinion on the distortion of Colombia by news and other sources of media. Every country has it`s problems, but I feel like those of Colombia were taken and put in the spotlight. So much of the beautiful country gets ignored!

    I`ve been hoping that I could visit Cali while I`m teaching in Colombia, and reading about the Cats Park and the awesome weather (much warmer than Bogota!) made me realize I MUST visit.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  19. James Fuerniss

    That is so awesome that are putting the real Columbia out there! You put so much detail into the description of the food I can almost taste it! What was it like experiencing the crowds and celebration after the soccer victory? I could only imagine how much fun it must have been. Salsa, soccer, great food, I might just have to give Cali a visit!

  20. Natalie A Johnson

    I have heard the same things about Americans not knowing their country. It sounds like you had a great experience exploring Colombia. The food and celebrations sound amazing. It’s also very cool how music is an important part of the culture. Music can be such an important part of a culture or religion. Christianity greatly developed in Egypt. One of the earliest Christian hymns was discovered in an Egyptian village (Tignor 288).

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