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

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. 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

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