Parque El Gato De Tejada is an amusing place of interest in Cali. As you enter the park along the Cali River you’re greeted by El Gato del Rio – a three-ton bronze sculpture created by late Colombian artist Hernando Tejada!
Tejada moved to Cali from Bogotá at the age of 14 and donated the sculpture in 1996, two years before his death. El Gato De Tejada is part of a municipal improvement project designed to beautify the northern banks of the Cali River.
In 2006, the project expanded to include 15 smaller but colorful felines. Each sculpture is cast in the same shape but painted by a different local artist. The cats all have unique stories displayed on plaques in Spanish below the name of the artist. The sculptures are feline depictions of women.
Tejada was born in 1924 in Pereira, Risaralda a coffee-producing area in the Andes foothills. He studied fine arts at the University of Bogotá.
Although oil painting and sculpture were Tejada’s primary mediums, his work includes drawings, photography, and even audio-visual. The talented Tejada learned his fresco technique from Luis Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo, his teacher at the University of Bogotá. Gomez learned his Renaissance technique in Mexico where he studied with Diego Rivera.
On the way to the park, I stopped at a square in the San Antonio District where I met some friendly locals who talked about Cali and provided insight into the city. One, a young Polish man who had lived in Cali for about 8 months, was selling freshly made chocolates. Another interesting man, a Colombian economist, had lived all over the world before deciding to move to Cali. He graduated from the University of the Pacific in California and lived in San Francisco for several years.
It was a fun afternoon of good company and being educated about Cali and its people. During the day New Year’s Eve was quiet, a time Colombians spend with their families. After a late lunch at a small crowded out-door café I spent the afternoon walking around the city. Most businesses in Cali close early on New Year’s Eve. Around 10:00 p.m. fireworks began in the central part of town along the Cali River and people gathered to welcome in the New Year.
I was invited to a neighborhood celebration by a friendly waiter I met the first day in Cali. The party was at a small hotel in the San Antonio neighborhood – a unique evening with a fun mixed crowd of people I’ll always remember!