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Popayan is a municipality and def. is a capital city of the Colombian department of Cauca, with a population of about 215,000 people. It was conquered by Sebastian de Belalcazar on January 13, 1537. It is known as the "white city" because of its beautiful colonial houses. Located at an altitude of 1,737 meters, the city is well-known for its colonial architecture and its contributions to Colombian cultural and political life. More presidents have come from Popayan than any other city in Colombia and it was also home to noted poets, painters, and composers. Here is also located the Universidad del Cauca (est. 1827), one of Colombia's oldest and most distinguished institutions of higher education. Much of the city's original splendor was destroyed on March 31, 1983, when an earthquake toppled many buildings. Though many were rebuilt and repaired, the colonial center still bears ruins and empty lots from the disaster. Nearby is Purace National Park, a geothermal wonderland of hot springs, waterfalls, and a (currently) inactive volcano from which the park derives its name. The nearest large city is Cali, in the neighbouring department of Valle del Cauca, to the north.


The word Popayan comes from an Indian dialect. It means:

Po: Two

Pa: Straw

Yan: Village

Two villages with straw roofs. However there is no straw roofs in town any more although there is plenty of them in the city neighborhood.

There are no records regarding the pre-Hispanic history of the indigenous town of Popayan, but in January 13, 1537 Spanish conqueror Sebastian de Belalcazar came to the conquered town and declared de foundation of Popayan. It was a very important town during the colony because its location between Lima, Quito and Cartagena. Even after the discovery of the Pacific Ocean Popayan was a transfer point of gold and riches going to Cartagena on its way to Spain. As a result Popayan is one of the most traditional Colombian towns and very rich in Colonial architecture although in 1983 an earthquake destroyed part of the city. There are several colonial bridges, museums and churches in the town.

Natives populated the town before the conquest. Next to the city there is still a huge mound built by the Indians similar to a pyramid and presently covered by grass. Legend says the inner structure holds richness and gold. Conquistadores settled next to the Indians taking advantage of their good heartiness and cheap labor. Catholicism was offered and taken by the Indians in exchange for their gold and work.

The city is home to an ancient pre-Hispanic pyramid known as El Morro del Tulcan. El Morro was already abandoned when the Spanish first arrived to the city in 1535. Analysis of dental samples taken revealed that the individuals buried there probably belonged to the most important social class from their respective Indian society.

Popayan is the city with most presidents from Colombia. A total of 17 presidents have been born in Popayan.

Popayan has been destroyed by several earthquakes. The most recent and the most destructive lasted for eighteen seconds and occurred on March 31st of 1983. The reconstruction of the colonial city took more than 10 years and still today it is possible to see some lots that have not been reconstructed. The first earthquake seismic design code was established in Colombia as a consequence of this earthquake.

External links

Daily News

Photo gallery

Some pictures

Pictures about "The Little Popayan" or "El Pueblito Patojo"

Culture and entertaiment

News and entertaiment

Universidad del Cauca

Popayan Newspaper

Popayan de mis amores

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Popayan

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