The Petronio Alvarez Music Festival! August 2019

Afro-Colombia & The Petronio Alvarez Music Festival

Cali & Cartagena, 2019

Trip Summary


Join us in 2019 to embark on an extraordinary journey to Colombia to learn about the heritage & traditions of African Descendants of Colombia. Explore and learn of the history and present day expressions from the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean. Our trip begins in Cali, to explore this vibrant city and to attend the renowned Petronio Alvarez Music Festival, entering its 23rd year! Become immersed in the rhythms of Pacific Colombia. Rhythms such as the marimba and chirimia are amazingly vibrant and mesmerizing. After Cali, we’ll travel to Cartagena & vicinity, to visit the community of San Basilio Palenque, established in honor of Cimarron, liberator and martyr, Benkos Bioho. San Basilio developed an internal creole language, designed to keep information tightly held within the community. This is a one-of-a-kind journey to learn about and immerse in Colombia’s vibrant African Heritage.



  • Travel to Cali to explore the vibrant capital of Valle de Cauca
  • Enjoy a salsa dance class and immersion in the salsa dancing of Cali
  • Attend workshops held by musicians in the Petronio Alvarez Festival
  • Attend the Festival del Pacifico Petronio Alvarez to sway to the rhythms of Pacific Colombia
  • Tour the Colonial city, Cartagena, to learn about life here in the Colonial Period
  • Explore Cartagena’s oldest neighborhoods
  • Travel to San Basilio Palenque to meet with community leaders to learn about the first free slave community of the Americas
  • Visit the stunning Gold Museums in Cartagena & Cali to learn about the early ancestors, prior to the arrival of the Spaniards
  • Relax in the clear waters of the Islas del Rosario

Trip includes:

  • Accommodations
  • Expert Guides and/or Academics
  • Comfortable / Secure Transportation
  • Welcome and Farewell Dinners
  • Breakfasts
  • Meals according to itinerary
  • Water on Van/Coach
  • Airport Transfers
  • Entry Fees




Itinerary at a glance



Day One, Thursday, Arrive Cali, Evening of Rumba and Salsa! (Evening snacks)

Enjoy an evening that begins with an education on the history of salsa music in Cali. Then, we’ll continue by visiting some of the famed salsa and rumba dance halls and bars! Our first stop is at the beloved Habanero where a live orchestra will invite us to get ready to rumba! Then we’ll go to Zaperoco, where Cali’s top salsa musicians unite and where no one wastes time talking; get ready to DANCE!  It is here, where everyone who LOVES salsa music goes to dance!


Day Two, Friday, Cali City Tour, Salsa Dance Cultural Immersion (B, L)

Today, explore the cultural landscape of Cali. We’ll visit the Museum of Anthropology La Merced, The Museo de Oro Calima, the Historic Center and the bohemian neighborhood of San Antonio. We’ll enjoy a traditional lunch of Pacific Colombian cuisine. In the afternoon, we’ll explore the singular cultural landscape of Cali: salsa dancing and the salsa culture. We will enjoy a salsa dance class, ourselves, as well as visit the world renowned salsa group: Swing Latino. We’ll watch them, as they train for their next competition in the International Salsa Competition. In the evening, we’ll attend the sensational “Ensalsate” extravaganza (think Tropicana or Copacabana!)


Day Three, Saturday, Local Food and Craft Market and Percussion and Marimba History Overview and Hands-On Workshop, Evening at Petronio Alvarez Music Festival (B, L)

In the morning, visit the vibrant and bustling local food market to learn about the foods and ingredients from Cali, where much of their food comes from the Pacific Coast, via the port of Buenaventura. Here, you will see and taste fruits you’ve never seen before! And, we will enjoy some delicious “arepas con queso”! Across the street from the market is the Craft Store, where we’ll shop for  lovely Colombian crafts.

In the afternoon, we meet with renowned ethno-historians to learn about the history of the marimba in Colombia. The Marimba de Chonta has been declared Cultural Patrimony of Colombia, with origins in Africa. We won’t only learn, we’ll also enjoy a fun and interactive percussion and marimba workshop. We might even become future contestants at the Petronio Alvarez Festival!

At night we’ll attend the Petronio Alvarez Festival, where we’ll sway to the rhythms of the “marimba de palma chonta”, a mesmerizing sound and beat.

The Petronio Alvarez Music Festival was founded in 1997, with the objective to create a space to unite musicians from Colombia’s Pacific Coast region, with the objective to celebrate and maintain this important cultural expression and legacy. It has since become a beloved and significant Festival,  highlighting, celebrating and  elevating musicians from Guapi, Timbiqui, Tumaco and other regions. There are specific musical categories: marimba, chirimia, violines de Cauca and “libre”, or freestyle.  All compete to be named the best in their category.

Day Four, Sunday, Sugar Cane Museum, Petronio Alvarez Music Festival (B, L)

In the morning we’ll visit the Museo de la Caña de Azucar to learn about the Colonial Period and African labor in the sugar cane fields of Colombia. At lunch we’ll learn about a cuisine that is different from the Pacific Coast cuisine, called Vallecaucano, coming from the Valle de Cauca (same place as the Violines de Cauca!).

Returning to our hotel, we’ll rest before attending the Petronio Alvarez Music Festival. We’ll visit food stands and other cultural elements of the Festival, before listening to more of the incredible Afro-Pacific sounds. There is nothing like the Petronio Alvarez Festival!


Day Five, Monday, Welcome to Cartagena! (B, L)

This morning, we transfer to Cartagena.  Arriving, we’ll go to our hotel, before we set out to explore this walled city on the Caribbean Coast. We’ll explore neighborhoods, such as Getsemani, to learn of the early African descendants and their history here. We’ll also see the vibrant street art that has been transforming neighborhoods in this city. And, by visiting the Gold Museum here, we’ll learn about the earliest ancestors of this region of Colombia, the Zenu people. We’ll enjoy lunch of fresh ceviche, a favorite and refreshing dish to enjoy in this tropical setting. In the evening, options include strolling, sitting at an ocean-side cafe or dancing at the famed clubs here!


Day Six:  Tuesday, San Basilio Palenque (B, L)

Today we visit the community of San Basilio Palenque; founded by a community of Cimarrones, lead by their liberator, Benkos Biahlo. Here, we’ll learn of the history of the Palenque, or settlements of freed slaves and how they developed a unique and private language to conceal their discussions & activities from the outside. We will meet with community leaders, educators, artists, musicians who will share their vision & experience of living in San Basilio. Returning to Cartagena, the evening is at leisure.


Day Seven, Wednesday, Fishing Community (B, L)

Today, we enjoy an excursion into the mangrove communities of to learn the ways and stories of the local fishing communities and people who have made fishing their livelihood in the mangroves near the Caribbean Coast. We enjoy a fish cook out with our new friends and be sure to bring your bathing suits so we can enjoy a dip in the refreshing waters! Returning to Cartagena, the afternoon is at leisure for more exploring.


Day Eight, Thursday, Thursday, August 23, Free Day to Explore in Cartagena or Optional Islas del Rosario (B, L)

Today, we will hop on a boat and head for the beautiful islands, just off the coast of Cartagena. Taking a forty minute boat ride, we’ll arrive to white sandy beaches, where we can snorkel, bike ride, walk, read a book, swim. We’ll enjoy a nice lunch before returning to Cartagena, the city we are sure to have grown to love!


Day Nine, Friday, Return home, extend your stay in Cartagena, or take an extension to Medellin! (B)



Photos from this trip


















« | »