On high in Colombia: folk tales and park life at Cali's Loma de la Cruz

The Cali hilltop’s history includes an eerie legend but its present focuses on a park and market where local craftsmanship and creativity is showcased

According to Caleños, as Cali locals are called, there is an eerie legend about their cross on the hill. Here, in the mid-1500s, two African slaves are said to have defied their masters by getting married in secret. The couple were betrayed, and killed, and were never given a proper burial, so it is said their souls were left wandering the hillside until the placement of a cross laid them to rest. Franciscan friars put the current brick one there in 1909 to replace a wooden cross that gave the spot its name: Loma de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross).

This haunting story lingers on the hill, which remains a space for reflecting on Colombia’s history of slavery and civil war.

“They can silence my song, but they can’t hold back my soul,” reads a massive mural honouring the disappeared.

Craft stalls at the park’s market.
Craft stalls at the park’s market. Photograph: Angelika Albaladejo

The hill is also home to the Parque Artesanal, popular for its views, craft stalls and outdoor cultural events. A private company opened the market and exhibition space there in 1990, to display craftsmanship from across the Americas. Soon after, it was expanded into a public park by the local authority.

From the hilltop, you can see the city sprawling against a backdrop of lush green mountains, sitting in the tropical landscape between the Cauca river and the south-western slopes of the Andes.

At the market, all sorts of goods are on sale, from beaded jewellery to leather shoes and musical instruments – a more authentic alternative to the factory-made souvenirs sold in most shops. Cali is renowned for being the country’s salsa-dancing capital and the park’s airy amphitheatre hosts dance lessons, along with outdoor films and live concerts. The hill is not only a memorial to the past, but a celebration of a vibrant present.

Calle 5, between Carreras 16 and 17 in north-west Cali, open every day. Vendor hours vary

Angelika Albaladejo

The GuardianTramp

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