The Women of Cali (Las caleñas son como las flores)

3 Nov

Girl (at Spanish exchange): So why do you want to learn Spanish?
Me: Well, I’m planning on moving to Colombia next year.
Girl: Really, what part of Colombia?
Me: A city called Cali.
Girl: Really? Wow, I lived there a few years ago. You know, it has the most beautiful women in all of South America?
Me: Really? I hadn’t heard that at all ;-)

Truth be told, it was virtually impossible NOT to hear about the famed beauty of the women of Cali. Once I started doing some research on the place, after I decided to move there to learn Spanish and salsa, virtually every website, blog and article about the city thoroughly emphasized Cali’s reputation as a veritable heaven of latin beauties.

Truth be told, even the Caleña (as the women of Cali are called) who first gave me the idea to move there when I lived in Japan, was stunningly beautiful.

The Spanish in the title of this post is the title of this song, which translates as “The women of Cali are like flowers”. There is whole host of songs dedicated to the city of Cali and none of them fail to mention the qualities of Latin America’s most adored women, their beauty and just as importantly, their skills on the dance floor.

An added benefit
Let me make one thing clear. I came to Cali to dance and learn Spanish, not because of its reputation for stunningly beautiful women…

…that said, it is virtually impossible to not notice how stunningly beautiful the women here are and it has been a nice little perk during my time in this great city because, surprise surprise, I love beautiful women. Go figure!

A Japanese buddy of mine once asked me what 3 things could I absolutely not live without (besides the obvious family, friends and all that other sentimental stuff) and I, without a moments hesitation, answered: great food, great dancing and beautiful women! My sentiments haven’t changed since then.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that!
One thing that makes the women of Cali so special is the sheer variety of women there are here.

Cali has a very eclectic ethnic background made up of the European (mostly Spanish) settlers, the Africans they brought over originally as slaves and the indigenous South Americans who were here before anyone else (which they are understandably very vocal about). What results is a city with a population of people ranging from white to black with every possible gradation in between. This gives Cali its blanquitas, negritas, indiginas, morenas, mulatas, canelas, trigueñas and a whole host of other “colorful” names thought up by the inventive latinos.

Add to that the whole variety of body shapes, eye colors, facial features and hair types from all these diverse backgrounds and you have one of the most physically diverse populations on earth.

The beautiful women of the pacifico region are just one of the many ethnicities in Cali.

The beautiful women of the pacifico region are just one of the many ethnicities in Cali.

All in the attitude
But for me, what really sets the Caleñas apart from other women I’ve met in my life is their attitude. I can’t talk about all latin women but I have to say that women here are a hell of a lot more confident than those from Europe, North America or East Asia. And I like confidence in women.

It’s pretty hard to sum up how I quantify that statement so I’m just going to list a few observations I’ve made:

  • The clothes Caleñas wear are generally very revealing (my life here in Cali clearly sucks, right?) even in professional environments where semi-transparent blouses and visible bras are not uncommon. Cleavage is almost universally on display and in a city where plastic surgery is so common that makes for near whiplash like head turning).
  • Caleñas have a much better body image than women in other places. Being slightly (or significantly) overweight doesn’t stop women here from flaunting what they’ve got by wearing very tight and revealing clothing (this clearly is not always a good thing). I do however have to admit it’s very refreshing to meet women who are so comfortable with their bodies as it has always bothered me how women in other parts of the world, who, despite having beautiful bodies, are almost ashamed to show any part of it because of poor body image. Further proof is to be seen in the fact that women don’t take offense if they’re called something like “gorda” (fatty). It’s not used as an insult nor is it taken as one. I can’t imagine a man surviving an encounter with a woman if he ever called her “fatty” back home.
  • Women here are much more forward when it comes to flirting and in my experience it’s not uncommon for women to come up and start conversations with men in clubs or even on the street. And before anyone comments, they are not working girls (at least not as far as I know, although I may not be the best at picking up on these things) . That has rarely happened to me in other parts of the world (maybe I’m just not attractive to women from other parts in which case I’d really appreciate a heads-up people… by private message :( ). Anyway the world could do with more women flirting (can I get a “Here, Here!” guys).
  • Women here also seem to be much more sexually liberated and don’t feel “ashamed” about sex in the way they do in places like Ireland (thanks to Catholic guilt) and Japan (thanks to a whole host of social stigmas I couldn’t possibly touch on here). Sex is a much more socially acceptable topic here, not the taboo that it is in other parts of the (mostly English speaking) world.
  • I also think that competition amongst women here makes them a little more forward and “aggressive”. From what I understand (literally what I’ve been” told” as I fail miserably in my “understanding” of women) there is competition amongst women to look good and I’ve seen women being very competitive around men they’re interested in and very protective of their partners around other women. This probably has a lot to do with Colombian men’s reputations as being slightly less that completely faithful.

One way this “self-confidence”, competition and pride in appearance comes to a pinacle is in two things that have really stood out to me here, “Reinadas” and women’s Facebook pictures.

Reinadas are basically beauty queen pageants and they are an exceptionally common occurrence here in Colombia. They have them for everything from queen of local agricultural festivals to “Best Ass in the Valley” contests. Unfortunately they have them for kids too which I think could really mess with a child’s moral compass from a young age. This is where Colombia’s reputation as a haven of Beauty Queens comes from.

As for the Facebook photos, well, let’s just say that some women here put a serious amount of effort into posing for their photo’s. Some of the poses are ridiculously over the top or even sexual but it’s almost considered normal here. In fact, once after just meeting a woman (in her late thirties) at a dance class, during a 5 minute break she asked me to add her on Facebook and proceeded to show me her pics so I could “find her better”. Her pics were all professionally taken shots of her in an exceptionally short skirt and high heels doing various provocative poses on top of a wooden stool (shudder).

Just one example of the many beautyr pageants here in Cali. Yup, life here is rough!

Just one example of the many beautyr pageants here in Cali. Yup, life here is rough!

Conquistadors
Another thing that makes interaction between the sexes here a little more interesting is the Spanish language itself.

You’ve probably heard it before and scoffed but Spanish is genuinely a much more romantic language than English which you can’t help but notice if you’ve ever listened to the lyrics of most salsa or bachata songs (I won’t even get into what they say in reggaeton).

The word for flirt in Spanish “coquetear” itself just sounds fun to say and I couldn’t believe the word that people here use to mean being successful with women or to win a woman’s heart which is “conquistar”. That’s right, men here “conquer” women and that’s a completely socially acceptable turn of phrase. If I used that with a European girl I’m fairly sure I’d be walking away with a black eye and maybe even a few teeth less.

Add to that all the pet-names that people use for each other like papasito (I melt when I hear this one ;-)), mamasita, guapo, hermosa, preciosa, mi reina etc. and the words used by couples for each other such as amor, corazón, mi vida etc. and you can see exactly why this language is just made for getting intimate.

Touchy Feely
This being a latin country, physical contact is much more common place than back in Northern Europe or the U.S. and I am very, very grateful for it.

Not that I’m some sexual deviant that gets off on the slightest touch from someone of the opposite sex… or anything like that. I just think that the world would be a much happier place if people just touched themsel… I mean each other a little bit more.

Caleñas are masters of this. Once you’ve befriended a girl here you can expect to always get greeted warmly with a hug and a kiss, to have them throw their arm over your shoulder when they’re standing next to you, to have them hold your hand or repeatedly touch your elbow or your knee during a conversation and basically just make you feel a warm, human contact that makes that moment feel ten times more special than it otherwise would.

It took me quite a while to get used to it (especially after 4 years in Japan) and some people thought I was quite cold here at first but now I am a devote believer in regular human contact and I’m very grateful for the caress of the Caleñas.

Viva the Surgeons Knife
Another thing that everyone notices as soon as they get here are the surgical, ahem, “enhancements” that are so common place in Cali.

My first night out dancing here, I was amazed by how many women in the club who had boob-jobs and ass-jobs too (I can only imagine that the ass balances out the boobs and stops them tipping over). I quickly realized why this city has such a reputation for plastic surgery.

Apparently, this fascination with surgical perfection stems from the days of the drug cartels when the big drug-dealers used to show off their wealth by having the girlfriends with the biggest “T & A”. It came to be seen as a sign of success and wealth and over the years, the accentuated hour glass figure has come to be something of an “ideal” amongst certain Caleños and plastic surgery to achieve this “ideal” has become a huge industry here. You can even pay for you’re new body in installments.

All that said, I think a lot of women go way overboard on the boob sizes they choose and I think the fake butts look just ridiculous (imagine a football sliced in half and stuck onto someones butt-cheeks and you’ll get a pretty accurate image). Looking natural here is most definitely not the goal amongst some women.

Tienen sabrosura, porque mueven la cintura
Finally I can’t leave out the famed skills of the Caleñas on the dance floor.

I’ve written about how people in Cali really dance and I still feel the same way. Technically, Caleños don’t really meet many expectations but one thing that the women here do have is “sabrosura” or flavor on the dance floor.

Caleñas, thanks to their confidence, really know how to move their bodies and don’t think twice about doing it. They appreciate the music and interpret it beautifully, they let it take them over and and they “flow” with the music better than a lot of social dancers in non-latin countries. What this means is that slow dancing, be it salsa, bachata, reggaeton or whatever, is a real pleasure here and is where Caleñas really shine.

The women of Cali are famed for both their beauty and their skills on the dance floor.

The women of Cali are famed for both their beauty and their skills on the dance floor.

True Flowers
I’ve been here in Cali over a year now and I’ve been truly blessed with the wonderful women I’ve come to know here. I have made wonderful friends and amazing dance partners and every one of them has made my time here in Cali memorable in their own special way.

Their friendliness, their beauty, their sensuality on the dance floor; all of these qualities are what make Caleñas so special and so famous in not just Colombia, but in South America and the world.

Reading about it really doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wonders of the Caleñas so the only thing to do is to come to Cali and meet them for yourself. And with the “Feria de Cali” coming at the end of December, timing couldn’t be better. Hopefully you’ll make it. Drop me a line if you do.

Keep dancing folks.

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15 Responses to “The Women of Cali (Las caleñas son como las flores)”

  1. Joshua December 6, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    Good read. I would add this to the touchy feely part: When I originally arrived in Cali being a foreigner sometimes I got confused on who was actually interested in me because they were so open and friendly. Some were just being very nice while others were trying ot drop signals of wanting more. Which sometimes lead to me placing my attention on the wrong female.

    Also, I don’t about you but there are sooooo many married women who took me out and I no idea they were married until they told me later. Nobody wears rings! My friends told me to get over it and hang out with the married ladies but I never felt comfortable. I was told everyone has a little something on the side in Cali. During my time there I found that to be true in the general sense.

    • The Dancing Irishman December 6, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Hey Joshua,
      I absolutely know what you mean with not knowing how to interpret all the touchy feelyness of the girls here. It would be very easy to get the wrong idea.
      I’ve also heard that it’s very common for people to have something on the side, men and women but I’ve never “noticed” that thing about the wedding rings. That said, my ability to notice such things is notoriously poor so it is quite possibly true.
      It’s like a different world eh!
      I hope all’s well back in the states.

  2. Paula December 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    Hola Rich!
    Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences in Cali. I’m so glad we ended up talking about your plans when sitting that afternoon at Dolphin Port. Also thanks for ‘stunningly beautiful’, you made my day! Keep writing xx

    • The Dancing Irishman December 10, 2012 at 7:48 am #

      Paula, I tell it like it is. Thank you for giving me the incentive to start this next part of my life in your home town.
      Hasta pronto linda!

      • Raï December 18, 2012 at 8:17 am #

        Hi ! I would like to know, how can one get to Cali, Colombia from the Democratic Republic Of Congo! I am asking that question because, i looked around and i couldn’t find an embassy or consulate of Colombia in Congo . The near embassy is in South Africa. I would like to visit that place for next year December. Thanks
        Raï

      • The Dancing Irishman December 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

        Hi Rai, I guess you would have to confirm if you need a visa to come here. For a lot of nationalities you just need to arrive and they give you a tourist visa at the customs gate. I don’t know about citizens of the DRC.

  3. Cal April 8, 2013 at 4:13 am #

    Josh,

    Love the blog and kudos to having the fortitude to just going out into the world and doing what the rest of us are afraid to do. Keep up the blogging, adverntures and etc.. I also have weird question. My brother is a fan of salsa dancin; not really good at it but always ready to practice and learn. He’s also part of the work hard paly harder troupe, 24 years old and been described as easy on the eyes by women 17 to 50. How much “trouble” could he get into / find in Cali?

    • The Dancing Irishman April 8, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      Hi Cal,
      Glad to hear you like the blog. As for the question about your brother, it’s definitely loaded. Just like any city in the world it all depends on him. If he’s very irresponsible, he can get into a lot of trouble here. If he’s more responsible… he can still get into quite a bit hahaha.
      Or he could be good and still have a great time.

  4. Víctor. April 30, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Have you ever been in Guadalajara, Mexico, It’s not the same about how caleñas dances, but Tapatías has a kind of pride, that makes her so interested. Of course Tapatías has white skin, tall, good dressed an this like that.

  5. Chilly June 14, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    Great food, great dancing and beautiful women! Here Here!
    There were quite a few Colmbian women at the LA Salsa Festival and you are right, when a group of them walk in the room – you notice them. The guy next to you notices them and they have no problem being noticed. I gotta make my way to Cali real soon.

    • The Dancing Irishman June 14, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      Hahahaha that sounds like Colombian girls alright. They most certainly aren’t shy little wall-flowers!

  6. T August 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Dude are you still down there?

  7. Alvaro Aragon November 15, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Dear sir Dancing Irishman,

    With great respect in reply to your other blog about not liking Colombian food. Coming from a family who had two successful Colombian restaurants in the states, long line of great cooks, and can convince 98% of the people how great Colombian food is I feel that your dislike for Colombian food is misinformed. Even Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern have made great shows about our cuisine. I think it may be due to the fact that you may have tried a lot of street food and probably did not know where to go or even the areas where you lived. We have lot’s of varieties of stews, seafood, soups, and home dishes that can rival your favorite dishes and I’m just talking about my home cooked meals. I hope the next time you visit it will be a more pleasant one, food-wise!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Dancing Irishman’s First Birthday | The Dancing Irishman - June 5, 2013

    […] that a good photo goes a long way towards catching peoples attention too, as seen with “The Women of Cali (Las caleñas son como las flores)” or “How to be stronger than you’ve ever been in your life!“. So just in case […]

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