The period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, it’s just plain boring. Everyone is either on holiday or with their families, the streets are deserted and there’s nothing for you to do, right? Well, not in Colombia, people. The party-mad folk in Cali aren’t going to spend five days sitting around waiting for the New Year. No, siree. From the 25th until the 30th of December every year, the city of Cali hosts one of Colombia’s biggest festivals.
The Feria de Cali attracts party-goers, salsa-lovers and bull-fighting enthusiasts from all over the country and beyond and is a stunning display of the city’s insatiable love for dancing and simply confirms its reputation as the world capital of Salsa. Hips gyrate wildly, while shoulders and legs seemingly move to different beats and the same beat all at once. And that’s just at breakfast.
As part of the festival, there are numerous live concerts (some of them free, some of them not so free) featuring Colombian and international artists, with a heavy emphasis on salsa, although you might be lucky enough to hear some vallenato and reggaeton. In fact, this year Marc Anthony and Don Omar were in attendance. Sadly, I arrived a day late.
There are plenty of salsa shows too; the perfect way for motionless foreign hips to have any last ounce of confidence knocked right of them. Sadly, unlike our very own Shakira, my hips do lie. A lot.
But, thankfully, it’s not all hip-wiggling and shame. There are plenty of other events to keep the, let’s say, musically-challenged amongst us occupied. Like horses? There’s a horse parade. Like cars? There’s a classic car parade (seemingly unrelated but who cares? They’re classic cars!). Like the Pacific? Well, there’s a whole day devoted to it, with Pacific music, food and, yes, arrechon (a bafflingly horrible alcoholic beverage which they claim is an aphrodisiac. I beg to differ). Add to that the art exhibitions, floats, and theatrical works and you have yourself a truly diverse feria.
In addition, there are six daily bullfights which take place at Cali’s impressive plaza de toros. Clearly, this is a pastime which generates plenty of controversy, with bullfighting being banned in many cities across Colombia, including Bogota. However, putting ethical issues aside, the spectacle was very impressive. The graceful movement of the matadors, the costumes, the colours and the atmosphere all made for an enjoyable afternoon (if you ignore the brutality of the show). I doubt I will ever visit a bullfight again, though, it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.
And if you need a break from the partying and mind-boggling dances, you can nip out of town to Buga, a beautiful and traditional Colombian town with more churches than you can shake a stick at. Or, a little further away is Lake Calima, a perfect place to relax and recharge your batteries before the next round of dancing.
So this year, instead of complaining that there’s nobody to hang out with in your city and instead of freezing your gonads off in a European winter, head on down to Cali and get your Salsa on.
Featured image by Ben Bowes