A place of peace grows with tourism in Colombia – Jaír F. Coll visits Siloé

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At 7:00 in the evening, Siloé begins to resemble a manger. It is paradoxical, but this district in Cali, Colombia that has been so dominated by armed violence shows its sweetest face when the sun goes down. The residents are no longer afraid to walk the streets of their own neighborhood, as they were 20 years ago. And tourists take selfies while walking along the 'Isabel Pérez' route, the new tourist route inaugurated less than a month ago by the inhabitants of the district. It was opened in order to collect resources for the community and erase the ongoing stigmatisation around Siloé.

Creator

Jaír F. Coll

Location

Cali, Colombia

Date

July 2023

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Date: August 2022
Photographer: Jaír F. Coll
Location: Cali, Colombia

More than a history of violence

"One had to go back home before 6:00 in the evening. And when I went out on the street, I would cover my children's eyes so they wouldn't see the gang members at both ends of the street. It was terrible when two opposing gangs clashed. Now look: it's 10:00 at night and you can take your dog for a walk with complete peace of mind," says Olga Lucía Rivera, 43, a resident of the area that was once ruled by six criminal gangs. Five of them no longer exist.

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Date: August 2022
Photographer: Jaír F. Coll
Location: Cali, Colombia

The 'Isabel Pérez' route

This history of violence, however, is not the only one told by the tour guides of the 'Isabel Pérez' route, which received support from the National Government and the private sector through the 'Compromiso Valle' initiative. Siloé’s founding by coal miners more than a century ago, the myths that are part of the idiosyncrasy of its inhabitants as well as the bonds of peace that have been formed in recent years are also part of the narrative of the tourist route.

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Imagine taking a night tour to learn about Colombia’s typical myths and legends, which are also very specific to the district. This has helped the community to take ownership of their own street, their own neighborhood.

Carolina Jaramillo, director of the Muli Museum

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Date: August 2022
Photographer: Jaír F. Coll
Location: Cali, Colombia

A place that is changing rapidly

Siloé is a locality that gathers twelve neighborhoods and three urbanisations. Its appearance is very similar to that of the favelas of Brazil, with small brick houses built on steep hills that are sometimes impossible to travel by car. In recent years, eight tourist routes have been created to show another face of the district located in the west of Cali.

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Date: August 2022
Photographer: Jaír F. Coll
Location: Cali, Colombia

Social mapping

"While important improvements were made in infrastructure and mobility, the 'Isabel Pérez' route reaches deeper than the merely aesthetic. We began a social mapping to learn about the needs of the community and how they wanted to tell their own story, to discover treasures that needed to be shown to visitors," says Carolina Jaramillo, director of the Muli Museum.

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Date: August 2022
Photographer: Jaír F. Coll
Location: Cali, Colombia

An inspiring energy

Midnight is approaching over Siloé. In a few hours it will be dawn and the lights that give Siloé the appearance of a manger will fade. However, the more than 95,000 residents will continue to feel this new freedom of walking around in peace and rediscovering the streets where they once grew up in fear.

And just as the gray walls change into murals that speak of peace, dance and wildlife richness, so do the imaginaries built around Siloé. "I can't believe I'm here, especially at night. It's so cool to see how its residents have left behind all that history of violence to become such a cool place. I have to bring my whole family to see what I see," says Sophia Riascos, a visitor to the route. 

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