Introduction of Popayan
Cultural center, city, and capital of Cauca department, 110 mi S of Cali, SW Colombia. Founded in 1536, it was a center of religious and commercial activity before the wars of independence in the early 18th century. Populated mostly by Spanish aristocrats during the colonial era, it was also a cultural oasis that housed a university established in 1640. Many eminent persons were born here, including national presidents, writers, and naturalist Francisco Jose de Caldas. There are several colonial Spanish churches and monasteries in the city.