The area was named Cauca after the Cauca River, which is born in the Colombian Massif and flows in a south-north direction. From an ethnic perspective it is a region of many contrasts given that the coffee growers here are descendants of colonists from northern Colombia, and indigenous inhabitants from different ethnic groups duh as the Guambiana(Misak), Yanacona, Páez (Nasa), Coconucos and other Indian communities, as well as Afro-Colombians brought here by the Spanish hundreds of years ago to work in the mines. Despite all these different ethnicities, the people of Cauca are consistent in their cultural practices and in as far as their coffee producing systems.
Photo: Patricia Rincón Mautner
Popayán, the capital of Cauca, known as the white city with its well-kept historical centre, is an interesting tourist destination for Colombians and foreigners alike. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the city was also very important politically. Caucans are also very proud of their religious traditions and Easter celebrations that have not changed in over four centuries.
The physiographic characteristics of Cauca include the Pacific plains: a low area covered by mangrove forests. The Western Andes Mountain Range reaches from the south-east to the north-east of the Department and runs parallel to the Central Mountain Range which houses the Sotaráand Petacas volcanoes and the snow-capped Huila volcano on the border of the Department.The Colombian Massif houses the Cutangaand Puracé volcanos, the pico de Paletará and the Sierra Nevada de Coconucos.
Between the western and eastern Andean mountain ranges is the Popayán plateau. In the south of the Department there is an important geographical accident known as the Valle del Patía: a valley—framed by the Western and Central Mountain Ranges, where the Patía River runs from north to south—and extends towards Nariño. The department also has access to the Amazon River basin where the Caquetá River flows.
Cauca is home to five large basins: Alto Cauca, Pacífico, Alto Magdalena, Patía and Caquetá. The coffee producing region is located mainly in the Alto Cauca basin, made up of the Cauca River and its effluents: Rivers Palo, Guengué, Negro, Teta, Desbaratado y Quilichao, Mondomo, Ovejas, Pescador, Robles, Piedras, Sucio, Palacé, Cofre, Honda, Cajibío, Piendamó, Tunia, Molino, Timbío and Blanco. A region with several sites of interest to explore