Pre-Columbian era and conquest

Calima culture gold ceremonial tweezers from Walters Art Museum.

Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the region was inhabited by many indigenous tribes, mostly speakers of Cariban languages. In the region between the Cauca River and the Western Cordillera, the Gorrones established themselves between the present day Roldanillo and Santiagop de Cali. The biggest town of the Morrones was sited on the River Pescador near the present-day towns of Zarzal and Bugalagrande. The Morrones traded with the Quimbayas who inhabited the north of the Valle del Cauca.

On his way to Cali, Sebastián de Belalcázar first met the Timbas who ran away before the arrival of the men, leaving behind their towns and gold. After the Timbas, towards the north, the Spaniards entered the territory of the chief Jamundí and his tribe, the Jamundíes, between the rivers Pance and Jamundí. This tribe offered a strong resistance to the invaders, fighting with poisonous darts and arrows against the arquebuses and swords of the Spaniards. Eventually, the Spanish prevailed in the struggle over the central valley.

Before taking complete control over the region, the Spaniards had to defeat the chief Petecuy, whose tribe inhabited the area between the river Lilí and the Western Cordillera. Petecuy formed a big army with many tribes and fought the Spaniards on Holy Tuesday of 1536. The natives lost to the Spaniards and were divided in encomiendas.

Santiago de Cali was important for Belalcázar because it was outside the Inca empire. After the capture and execution of the Inca Atahualpa at CajamarcaFrancisco Pizarro had sent Belalcázar to take possession of Guayaquil and Quito on his behalf, but Cali, being outside the Quechua empire, was claimed by Belalcazar as his own territory. After his death, his descendants maintained possession of much of the land until the war of independence against Spain.

Founding and colonial period

Sebastián de Belalcázar.

La Merced.

The founder of Cali, Sebastián de Belalcázar, came to the American continent in the third voyage made by Columbus in 1498. In 1532, after serving in Darién and Nicaragua, he joined Francisco Pizarroin the conquest of Perú. In 1534 Belalcázar separated from Pizarro's expedition to find the city of Quito, and later in his search of El Dorado he entered the territory of what is now Colombia, founding the cities of Pasto and Popayán.

On 25 July 1536, Belalcázar founded Santiago de Cali, first established a few miles north of the present location, near what are now the towns of Vijes and Riofrío. Under the orders of Belalcázar, captain Miguel Muñoz moved the city to its present location in 1537, where the chaplain Brother Santos de Añasco celebrated a mass in the place occupied by the Church La Merced today, and Belalcázar designated Pedro de Ayala as the first municipal authority.

During the Colonia (colonial period), Santiago de Cali was part of the gobernación of Popayán, which was part of Quito's Audiencia. Although initially Cali was the capital of Popayán's Gobernación, in 1540 Belalcázar moved this function to Popayán due to "better" weather.

Until the 18th century most of the territory of what is now Santiago de Cali was occupied by haciendas (cattle farms and plantations of food, with some sugar cane), and the city was only a small town near the Cali River. In 1793, Santiago de Cali had 6,548 inhabitants, 1,106 of whom were (African) slaves. The haciendas were the property of the dominant noble class with many slaves dedicated mostly to stockbreeding and raising sugar cane crops. Many of these haciendas became zone of the present city like Cañaveralejo, Chipichape, Pasoancho, Arroyohondo, Cañasgordas, Limonar and Meléndez. Santiago de Cali was strategically positioned for trade, centrally located in relation to the mining regions of AntioquiaChocó, and Popayán. In the colonial period, the first trail for mules and horses between Santiago de Cali and the port of Buenaventurawas completed.

Independence

On 3 July 1810 Santiago de Cali refused to recognize the Council of Regency of Spain and established its own junta. This local uprising predates the national one in Bogotá by 17 days.[8] The Governor of Popayán, Miguel Tacón y Rosique, organized an army to control the uprising. The people from Cali called for help to the "Junta Suprema" in Bogotá, which sent a contingent under colonel Antonio Baraya to support the independence cause. For mutual defense, Cali also formed, with Anserma, Cartago, Toro, Buga and Caloto, the Confederated cities of the Cauca Valley, which declared independence from the Governorate of Popayán on 1 February 1811, although they continued to recognize the absent Ferdinand VII as their head of state. On 28 March 1811 in the battle of Bajo Palacé the Army of Baraya defeated the royalist army with the help of Atanasio Girardot.[9]

In the following years there were many battles between royalists and local militia. After having been released from captivity by Napoleon, Ferdinand VII sent a large army under the command of the "Pacificador" (Pacifier) Pablo Morillo who restored royalist rule in the area by 1816.

In 1819 after Simón Bolívar defeated the bulk of the royalist army in the Battle of Boyacá, there were new uprisings in the Valle del Cauca and the Criollos took control permanently. In 1822 Bolívar arrived in Santiago de Cali. The city was an important military outpost and the region contributed many men to the war of independence that liberated the nations in the south.

Modernism

Municipal Theater

Map of Cali in about 1883, Spanish edition.

In the 19th century Santiago de Cali, capital of the Valley of the Cauca River State, was a very quiet community with no more than 20,000 inhabitants. The urban center of the city was in the neighborhoods of Empedrado or Altozano, which were surrounded by La Merced and San Antonio neighborhoods.

James Martin Eder. Colombian Jewish entrepreneur.

Portrait of Jorge Isaacs. Colombian Jewish writer and intellectual.

The city was surrounded by mango plantations, pastures and communal land that were transferred from the Spanish Crown to the working classes. From the market gardens on this land the city was supplied with food resources. The economy was based mainly on livestock, sugar cane, beef, panela (jaggery), a sugar derivative, cheese and the gold mines of the Pacific; there was also a small growing industrial sector of the economy.

Around 1890 a private company, Company of Public Works of Cauca, built the Plaza de mercado (market plaza). This originated the development of a commercial area and from this came the transformation of the Plaza Mayor or plaza de Caycedo. In 1921, the market was sold to the Cali municipality. Very close to the 9th street was the principal station of the tranvia of Cali, a system which linked the city with suburban areas.

Recent history

On 7 August 1956, at around 1 a.m., seven Colombian army trucks filled with 42 tons of dynamite exploded near the train station, destroying around eight city blocks.[10][11] A nearby army barracks was instantly destroyed, killing all 500 soldiers. Windows were shattered for miles. More than 1,000 people were killed and several thousand injured.[12]