Reflecting on our time in Cali is a challenge because we have only just departed. The details of our activities have been dutifully recorded in my journal, but in the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to live with this experience, turning it over in my head and feeling it in my heart. For now, I still hear the song that all Caleños know by heart:
Cali pachanguero, Cali luz de un nuevo cielo.
I love a city that loves music, and salsa is the soul of Cali. Learning the basics of salsa dancing and practicing those newfound skills were highlights of our time in the city. The experience of visiting Cali did not, however, involve only music and dancing. It was the interactions with many different people that made the experience so rich. True cultural immersion happens not only in dance classes but through the simple, yet profoundly resonant relationships one is able to build by being an active participant in a community that is not one’s own. Through salsa, I learned not only about Colombian musical traditions, but also about war and peace, arepas and aguardiente, and family and friends.
We heard many voices in Cali—not just those of singers and dancers, but of students and teachers as well. We learned of their pride in their city and culture and their desires to improve young people’s lives and build new avenues of success for those who lack opportunities. And, we explored a complex, tri-cultural history that has created a vibrant culture which defies stereotypes.
~ Will Walker