Travel

THE WHITE CITY OF POPAYAN

For us, Colombia starts like this, at 5 a.m. on a fresh morning, when a nihpght bus from Ipiales leaves us in Popayan. It was a love at first sight: cafes opened at the terminal,offre at 20 cents, one of the best free walking tours ever, and the food!!
We planned to stay here 1 day but we stayed 2. Thanks to Santiago and Melissa who took us around the town.
This city exists since 1537 and it has always been white. It was a solution of the locals to cure a skin epidemia putting cal on the bodies, and then on all buildings. The most beautiful are the religious ones, but it’s normal since Popayan is called the American Jerusalem for the huge number of churches in town. In the past it was a way to indoctrinate the natives and a form of social control. If you didn’t go to church everybody would have noticed it.
Or if your skirt was cut. It meant you were a witch since they put traps on the roof to catch them.
Or even if you didn’t respect the formal approach to a girl, you sitting on your horse outside the house and her sitting on the other side of the window with her mum listening.
A part form the churches there is also a clausure monastery. There the nouns could climb a towe and see without being saw. Facebook didn’t invent anything.
Today Popayan is a young town full of students thanks to the fame of its university. 14 Colombian Presidents studied here. The graduation room is the happiest of the town since when you graduate here you get the incredible wisdom concentrated inside these 4 walls.
Who doesn’t come here to study comes for the Holy Week celebration, one of the most famous in the world, having received the prize as Human immaterial heritage by UNESCO. In fact it has always been the same, since it’s origins. Well, it has increased, more days (The whole week), more statues (1600) and more “staff”. In fact the main characters are Sahumadoras, girls from 17 to 22 who must have passed a culture test and can only be so once in a lifetime, and the cargueros, porters, males, a very honorable part, lasting lifelong until one decides to quit.
But Popayan already existed before the foundation by the Spaniards. That’s why locals got angry when only the statute of the Spanish founder, Belacazar, was put on the hill overlooking the town. Another statue, of its most famous native chief, was encharged but then disappeared. Of course the only statue there is quite dissacrated, by us too (brotherhood).

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