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Colombia economic value. Finding few Amerindians to work the fields, the Europeans turned to African slave labor. When Colombia abolished slavery in the mid-1800s, the sugar economy fell into sharp decline. For a time, it was replaced by tobacco, cacao, general food crops, and cattle. Today, sugarcane is once again the leading (legal) cash crop in the Cauca valley. Soil, moisture, and temperature conditions are ideal and contribute to some of the world’s highest yields. A by-product, ­bagasse—­what is left after the juice is extracted from the sugarcane ­stalk—­is used in a thriving pulp and paper industry. During La Violencia, which greatly affected residents who lived in the Cauca valley, more than 200,000 residents lost their ­lives. The two primary urban centers in the Cauca Valley are Popayán and Cali. Popayán is the southernmost city in the region. With a metropolitan area population of approximately 260,000 people, it is the smaller of the two urban centers. The city is one of Colombia’s most “European” places. It is nick-­ named the “White City” because of its many old and stately white colonial structures. It has a rich colonial heritage and is the home of many of the country’s leading families. Popayán has produced many authors, composers, painters, and other artists. It also has produced more presidents than has any other Colombian city—17 at last count (2007). Unfortunately, in 1983, a devastating earthquake struck the city and destroyed many of its oldest and finest ­structures. Cali was founded in 1536, making it one of the oldest inland European cities in Latin America. Throughout most of its history, Cali was a small, quiet, remote mountain town. All this changed during the latter part of the nineteenth century, when sugar and coffee growing began to bring prosperity to the Cauca Valley. Today, Cali is Colombia’s third-largest city, with a population of slightly more than 2 million inhabitants. It is also one of the country’s chief economic centers. Industrial products include pharmaceuticals, foods (particularly sugar) and beverages, computer software, and machinery. As you


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