Valle del Cauca Department

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Department of Valle del Cauca
Departamento del Valle del Cauca
Coat of arms of Department of Valle del Cauca
Anthem: "Himno al Valle del Cauca"
Valle del Cauca shown in red
Valle del Cauca shown in red
Topography of the department
Topography of the department
Coordinates: 3°25′N 76°31′W / 3.417°N 76.517°W / 3.417; -76.517Coordinates: 3°25′N 76°31′W / 3.417°N 76.517°W / 3.417; -76.517
Country Colombia
RegionAndean Region/Pacific Region
Established16 April 1910
CapitalSantiago de Cali
 • GovernorClara Luz Roldán (2020-2023) (Social Party of National Unity)
 • Total22,140 km2 (8,550 sq mi)
Area rank23
 • Total4,475,886
 • Rank3
 • Density200/km2 (520/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC−5
ISO 3166 codeCO-VAC
HDI (2017)0.773[2]
high · 2nd

Valle del Cauca, or Cauca Valley (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈbaʎe ðel ˈkawka]), is a department of Western Colombia. It is on the western side of the country, abutting the Pacific Ocean. Its capital is Santiago de Cali. Such other cities as Buenaventura, Buga, Valle del Cauca, Cartago, Palmira, Valle del Cauca and Tuluá have great economical, political, social and cultural influence on the department's life. Valle del Cauca has the largest number of independent towns (i.e. not in Metropolitan areas) with over 100,000 inhabitants in the country, counting six within its borders.[3] Buenaventura has the largest and busiest seaport in Colombia, moving about 8,500,000 tons of merchandise annually.[4]

The anthem of Valle del Cauca Department is "Salve Valle del Cauca, mi tierra" ("Hail Valley of the Cauca, my land").


The department of Valle del Cauca is located in the western part of the country, between 3° 05' and 5° 01' latitude N, 75° 42' and 77° 33' longitude W. It borders the departments of Risaralda and Quindío to the north, Cauca to the south, Tolima to the east, and Chocó and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The valley is geographically bounded by the Cordillera Central and Occidental and is watered by numerous rivers that empty into the Cauca River. The department is divided into four zones: the Pacific Fringe, which is humid and mostly jungle; the western mountain range, also humid and full of jungle, heavily deforested due to the paper industry; the Andean valley of the Cauca River, whose surrounding lands are the most fertile of the country; and the western ridge of the Cordillera Central. Malpelo Island in the Pacific also pertains to Valle del Cauca.



Hunter-gatherer societies[edit]

Palynological analyses performed by experts have determined that during the Superior Pleistocene some 40,000 – 10,500 years ago, the valleys of El Dorado and Alto Calima had Andean forest and Sub-Andean vegetation. The discovery of projectiles indicated that there were communities of hunter-gatherers at the end of the Pleistocene and the beginning of the Holocene. The extinction of the Pleistocenic megafauna in the beginning of the Holocene forced humans to adapt to their new environment, becoming hunter-gatherers. In the lower basin of the Calima River (Sauzalito River, El Recreo River, and El Pital River), archaeologists found the oldest traces of hunter-gatherers who inhabited the Valley of the Cauca River. According to these, in 5000 BC these societies already had some level of primitive agriculture and cultivated maize. There is little information about the years between 3000 and 1500 BC.

Ilama culture location (1500 BC–0)
Location of the Yotoco culture (0–1200 BC)
Late Period I location (600–1300)
Late Period II location (1400–1600)

Agricultural–pottery societies (1500 BC – 600 AD)[edit]

In 1500 BC the first agricultural–pottery society appeared, the Ilama culture, extending along the Calima River (in what is nowadays the towns of Restrepo and Darien. Its society had a social structure of Cacicazgos (chiefdoms) that prevailed until the arrival of the Spaniards. The Ilama economy was based on migratory agriculture using maize, yuca, and beans; hunting, fishing, textile confectioning and metallurgy. The Chief or "Cacique" was the head of the settlement and also had "chamanes" (spiritual leaders), warriors, farmers, hunters, pottery men, and goldsmiths. By 100 AD, the Ilamas had developed into the Yotoco Culture [es], which expanded the region of the Ilamas further into the Cauca River to the Pacific Ocean, and to the south to the region of what is now the city of Cali.

The Yotocos were a highly stratified society, headed by caciques, which managed several settlements. They existed in the region until 1200 AD. The population had increased, forcing them to develop effective agricultural techniques to feed its population which also improved the techniques on pottery and metal works. The agriculture of the Yotocos was more varied than that of the Ilamas and was based on maize, yuca, beans, arracacha, and achiote among others. The Yotoco started declining in the 6th century AD.

Agricultural–pottery in Pre-Columbian era (600–1600)[edit]

This archeological period is called the Late Period and is divided into Late Period I (6th to 13th centuries) and Late Period II (14th to 16th centuries). In Late period I the region of Valle del Cauca was inhabited by the Early Sonso culture, Bolo, Sachamate and La Llanada. During Late Period II the region was inhabited by the Late Sonso Culture, Pichinde, Buga and Quebrada Seca. Their development is attributed to population growth. Almost all the settlers in the area became subject to the rule of one main Cacique.

Arrival of the Spanish and Conquest[edit]

The first 67 Spanish explorers arrived in the area after founding the village of Popayán, in an expedition from Quito headed by Sebastián de Belalcázar. In the Valle del Cauca the explorers founded the village of Villa de Ampudia, named after one of them, Juan de Ampudia. By orders of Belalcázar the village was then moved to the Riviera of the Cauca River, within the Gorrones indigenous people's territory. In 1536, a Captain Muñoz ordered the city to be moved to the Valley, where the Village of Cali was founded on 25 July of that same year. Another Spanish explorer, Juan de Vadillo [es], coming from the village of Cartagena de Indias, entered Cali on 23 December 1538 with a second group of explorers, but he returned to Cartagena, leaving many of his men behind including Pedro Cieza de León. A third group of explorers, led by Admiral Jorge Robledo under orders of Lorenzo de Aldana [es], advanced to the North of the Valle del Cauca and founded the villages of Anserma (now part of Caldas Department; 15 August 1539), Cartago (9 August 1540), and Antioquia (25 November 1541), and under command of Pascual de Andagoya who came from Panama to Cali with a fourth group of explorers.

Department of Valle del Cauca[edit]

The Department of Valle del Cauca was created by decree number 340 April 16, 1910 which also created 12 other departments for Colombia. The Valle del Cauca Department was a result of the union of four former departments; Cartago, Buga, and Cali.


The government of Valle del Cauca is similarly set up as the Government of Colombia in which there are three branches of power; judicial, executive and legislative with control institutions at government level. The executive branch in Valle del Department is represented by the Governor of Valle del Cauca Department, the legislative branch is represented by the Department Assembly of Valle del Cauca and its deputies and the judicial is represented by the four department level of the Judicial Branch of Colombia; Superior Tribunal of Cali, Penal Court of the Circuit of Cali, the Administrative Tribunal of Valle del Cauca and Superior Military Tribunal for military cases. Valle del Cauca Department has 42 municipalities, each one having a mayor which is a popularly elected representative of the governor.

Administrative divisions[edit]


Department's agencies and institutions[edit]


Valle del Cauca has a diversified economy. Its valley contains sugarcane, cotton, soy, and sorghum crops, and there are coffee crops in the mountains. The department is known for its sugar industry, which provides sugar to the markets of the rest of the country and nearby countries. The sugar is obtained from the large sugar cane plantations, which were introduced to the department by Sebastián de Belalcázar. The production by the city of Yumbo also stands out, where several companies are found, most prominently the paper and cement businesses. The port at Buenaventura is Colombia's main port on the Pacific coast, allowing for the import and export of goods, and is of great importance for the economy of both the department and the country.


Historical population
1973 2,186,801—    
1985 3,027,247+38.4%
1993 3,736,090+23.4%
2005 4,161,425+11.4%
2018 4,475,886+7.6%

More than 80% of the population lives in cities or towns. The coverage of public services is among the highest in the country, with electrical power and education standing out the most. The food most closely associated with the department is sancocho de gallina, a stew made with an old hen, potatoes, yucca, corn and other ingredients; the characteristic flavor comes from a herb called cimarron or recao (Eryngium foetidum).


The capital of the department is Santiago de Cali, with approximately 2,800,000 inhabitants, was founded by Sebastián de Belalcázar in 1536. It is made up of 42 municipalities, the most populous being, from north to south, Cartago (Famous for its craftsmanship, its embroidery and for the "Casa del Virrey", House of the Viceroy), Roldanillo (Venue of the museum on the artist Omar Rayo), Tuluá (Located in the middle of the department), Yumbo (Industrial capital of the department venue for more than 2000 Industries of various types), Ginebra, Palmira, Buga and Jamundí.

Population of towns over 100,000 inhabitants (Not metropolitan areas):[3]

Town Female Male Total
Cali 1,270.850 1,129.713 2,400,563
Buenaventura 167,972 156,235 324,207
Buga 57,635 53,852 111,847
Cartago 64,209 57,532 121,741
Palmira 144,582 133,776 278,258
Tulua 95,922 87,314 183,236



The Valle del Cauca was historically a place dedicated to cattle and agricultural activities. For this reason, the region does not develop an artistic and European influenced architectural style, as the relative near city of Popayán, located in the department of Cauca, instead, the department generates simple and pragmatic constructions with a few exceptions. The material of the colonial constructions was basically of wood and bricks, with some use of stones.


  1. ^ Population Statistics by DANE[dead link]
  2. ^ "Sub-national HDI - Area Database - Global Data Lab". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b Official census Book, p. 54 (Spanish)(+ 70 mb file)
  4. ^ "Official Buenaventura's port statistics (Spanish)". Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "Reloj de Población". DANE. Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadísitica. Retrieved 6 July 2017.

External links[edit]