Arts + Culture
Photo courtesy of Petronio Álvarez Festival.

This Festival Celebrates the Best Music and Art Coming Out of Colombia's Pacific Black Coast

A look inside the Petronio Álvarez Festival—a five-day fete held in Cali, Colombia.

Every year in August, Cali—Colombia's third largest city—welcomes people from all over the world for the Petronio Álvarez Festival, a five-day feast of traditional music, dance, food, liquor and handicrafts from the country's Pacific coast. And, by doing so, it creates one of the few opportunities—and certainly the largest one—to celebrate the country's often overlooked blackness.

"The Pacific" is one of the five socio-economic regions in which Colombia is divided conceptually, only for simplification purposes. This region traverses parts of four Colombian departments along the country's western coast. It is one of Colombia's poorest areas, lacking infrastructure, as well as educational and job opportunities.

It is also the blackest region of the country. During colonial times, many African slaves were brought here to work on large plantations, mainly sugar cane. Many of them escaped before and after the abolishment of slavery in the country in 1851 into the thick, inaccessible landscapes near the Pacific ocean, and created their own settlements.

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