December 25, 2013
Cali is known for its salsa dancing and we are very lucky to be here during the Feria de Cali, a week long party that celebrates Cali, its culture and salsa with various parades, processions, and lots of partying and dancing. After a quick morning dip in the pool, we headed off to the feria with the masses. At only 800 meters above sea level and very close to the equator, Cali is hot, hot, hot and we were melting as we sat under the broiling sun for three (!!!) hours, waiting for the salsa parade to begin.
Just as we were starting to wonder whether it was worth it and thinking that the kids are real troopers, the parade got underway. Boy, was it worth the wait! The salsa parade in Cali is an amazing display of colorful costumes and some of the best salsa dancing in the world which takes place in blazing heat over nearly a mile trajectory. The Calenos like to boast that it is the world’s longest dance floor. The dancing children’s troupes were especially impressive. The way those kids twirled and dipped. Salsa dancing is definitely in their blood.
By 5 pm, the crowds started getting drunk and rowdy so we decided that it was time to get the kids out of there. We checked into our hotel, the Pension Stein. With its charming old world feel, great service, and our huge suite which boasted high ceilings and a king size bed, this pension felt like a 5 star hotel (at very reasonable prices). It is also located in a great neighborhood in Cali. I highly recommend it.
As an aside, I love Cali. With about two and a half million inhabitants, Cali is a manageable sized city and somehow feels cleaner and more organized than most developing country cities. Its houses are primarily white which probably helps and kind of reminds me of Florida… with an edge. I also have to confess that while Cali’s heat might be difficult to endure long term, short term it is fantastic and really helps us feel like we are “on vacation”. Last but not least, I love Cali’s relative diversity. Where Bogota is primarily caucasian with people of Spanish and Spanish/indigenous descent, Cali counts amongst its residents many descendants of African slaves who were brought to Colombia by the Spanish. To me, the racial and cultural mix really adds to the vibrancy of this city and probably accounts for its fame of great dancing.