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  • Valledupar: The Birthplace of Vallenato

    Colombia is famously a nation of distinct regions – and perhaps even more famously a nation of strong musical tradition. Every part of the country has given rise to or adopted its own distinct musical style, from cumbia on the Caribbean coast to the piping Andean melodies in the southwest. But perhaps no place takes its musical birthright as seriously as the northern city of Valledupar, the proclaimed cradle of the folk style known as vallenato.

    If you go to Valledupar looking for something other than vallenato, you may run out of activities fairly quickly, but there’s a certain charm to taking a long lunch – and then maybe a nap to avoid the brutal midday heat – and relaxing in the central plaza with a cup of icy pineapple juice. 

  • 3 Ways to Celebrate Peru during Hispanic Heritage Month

    It all started in 1968 when U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed that he wanted to celebrate one of the fastest growing populations in America – Latinos. Thus, National Hispanic Heritage Week was born. Fast forward to 1989 and that week-long observance was turned into a full month of celebrating the culture and traditions of people who are from or trace their roots to Spain, Mexico or the Spanish-speaking nations from Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

    Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off each year on Sept. 15 and it’s for good reason – this day is Independence Day for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico and Chile celebrate their Independence from Spain on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

    While Peru commemorates its Fiestas Patrias - the day the nation broke away from Spain – on July 28, Peruvians by birth and by association (you know, those who just love all things Peru) can still celebrate the Andean nation through Oct. 15.

    Here’s our three-step guide to celebrating this month-long American tradition with an air of Peruvian flair!

  • Sounds of Colombia: Cumbia

    Colombia is a music-loving country. From the northern tip of the Guajira peninsula to the southern reaches of the Colombian Amazon, the nation pulses with the beats of drums, guitars, percussion and, yes, accordions.

    But it’s not a homogenous sound – rather, it’s a symphony of different rhythms, instruments and beats. Each region of the country has its own distinct musical tradition, developed from different cultural influences and the backgrounds of the people living there.

    Sometimes it seems like each and every individual town has its own particular musical styling. One of the most important and uniquely Colombian genres, however, is cumbia, a traditional rhythm that blends the musical influences of many of the diverse cultures and ethnicities on Colombia’s Caribbean coast and continues to provide inspiration for many of the most popular Colombian bands today.

  • Bogotá’s “White Night” of Art

    This weekend, Bogotá’s bohemian La Soledad neighborhood stayed up well past its bedtime to celebrate the city’s artists and creative types with La Noche en Blanco (“White Night”).

    The event, now in its second year in the capital, closed the streets of a popular central neighborhood to cars and opened them to pedestrians, bikers, dogs and art enthusiasts, who strolled freely between performance spaces and projection screens from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday, September 27.

  • Summer in the City

    I know August isn’t a popular month back where I’m from, but it’s my favorite month in Bogotá. For Bogotanos, there are generally only two seasons: if it’s sunny, it’s summer; if it’s raining, it’s winter. This can be intensely confusing for anyone who was taught that it’s impossible to have more than one season in a given day, but that’s generally how it works. Except in August.

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