Those who visit Colombia are not only enchanted by its regions, its diversity, the flavors and the culture, they also become evangelists for this South American country.
CNN International recently explored four regions of Colombia through music, festivals, dance and more.
Culture in the Eastern Plains
British travel writer Chris Bell has traveled to every single one of the republic’s 32 departments. He often says that Colombia “cured” his boredom.
Chris was part of the #MyColombia journey to the Eastern Plains region or “Llanos Orientales.” The economy of the region thrives on cattle farming, so it’s only natural that the favorite food is the traditional beef BBQ roasted on an open fire.
Festivals are a way of life in Colombia, and every region has its own cultural events. The 50th anniversary of the Joropo Festival was underway when we visited the Plains this summer.
We witnessed the whole spectrum of Colombian cowboy culture – cattle herding, Joropo dancing and a rodeo competition called “coleo” that literally involves tipping a cow by its tail.
Coffee in the Andes
Despite its troubled history, more than 50 years of armed conflict, and an ongoing peace process with lackluster results, tourism in Colombia has picked up in recent years.
Constantly fighting stereotypes and struggling to improve the country’s reputation abroad, Colombians “always expect the best, even from the worst,” according to Juan David Agudelo, an entrepreneur who owns a coffee tourism company in the Andean region.
Agudelo was born in Bogotá, but established his business in Pijao, Quindio, where plantain trees and coffee plants are usually planted together in what he refers to as the “perfect marriage.”
It’s only one of the many reasons Colombian coffee tastes so different and speaks to the importance of biodiversity, the dangers of monoculture and the effort to grow excellent quality coffee beans.
“My hopes and dreams for this region in the future is that it becomes a place where the young generation stays to make this place even more colorful and more productive than ever,” says Juan David.
Salsa in the Pacific region
Cali is known as the salsa capital of the world. For that reason, we showcased salsa dancing in the Pacific region by featuring the show Delirio.
With increasing popularity in recent years both with international audiences and locals, Delirio treats thousands of people each month to a performance that blends Broadway, circus and salsa all in one.
“Dancing salsa in a disco here in Cali is so different from anywhere else in the world. In Cali everybody dances salsa,” says Camilo Zamora, a dancer and entertainer with the show.
Salsa orchestras often perform at La Topa Tolondra club on Friday nights.
Right next door, at Punto Baré, “La Cuqui Banda” performed for the CNN cameras. Traditional salsa clubs thrive throughout the city, and it’s where Camilo Zamora and his friends usually prefer to dance the night away.
Music in the Caribbean region
When wandering the Caribbean in Colombia, vallenato music is everywhere.
Ricardo Villafañe is a member of the Arhuacos, one of the four indigenous groups in the Caribbean region known for their mochilas, a very popular wool shoulder bag woven by hand. The prized bags are sold all over the country for around 400,000 pesos or about $140 dollars.
Villafañe performed on accordion with Carlos Vives in the Legends of Vallenato festival of Valledupar in 2015. He also spends time playing vallenato for his tribe, while his father sings traditional songs he translated into their language.
The things people create define cultures. Colombia’s is flavorful, rich, textured and vibrant.
Daniel Renjifo is a Producer for CNN VISION and was part of the production of the #MyColombia program