Located in a bay on the Pacific Ocean coast, Buenaventura (pop. 407,539) is the largest port city in Colombia. Its predominantly Afro-Colombian population (over 89%) has found in culinary culture and traditional cuisine a lever for resilience, reconciliation and social cohesion to tackle the challenge of peace building in a city affected by Colombia’s internal conflict. Traditional cuisine of Buenaventura is based on the diversity of local fruits and richness of its seafood production. Women are at the centre of the culinary creative process and have benefited from the development of cooperation networks based on traditional market places.
In recent years, an increased awareness surrounding traditional cuisine knowledge and techniques has been enhanced through the first Encounter of Traditional Cuisines of the South Pacific, as well as the Cocinando Desde la Raíz (Cooking from our roots) Festival. These events provide the opportunity to showcase the importance of traditional cuisine in the Pacific Region in its relation to the history of the African diaspora in Colombia. In order to enhance the promotion of traditional cuisine, José Hilario López market square is going through a regeneration process, covering not only infrastructure but also social and enterprise support for the 186 merchants and traditional cooks established there.
With the support of the national government, and as part of the Llan Todos Somos PazCífico (We are all PeacEific) programme, Buenaventura adopted a policy on safeguarding and promoting food and traditional cuisines in Colombia, with the aim of raising awareness around culinary know-how, strengthening agro-ecological practices and acknowledging the cultural and social value of food and gastronomy. The programme Escuelas Taller, Herramientas de Paz (School-Workshops, Tools of Peace) aims to improve the quality of life, particularly for vulnerable young people and victims of the conflict, through culture-based capacity building and vocational guidance.
As a Creative City of Gastronomy, Buenaventura envisages:
- improving access and participation in culinary creation through the strengthening of research and training on traditional cuisines;
- promoting the development of cultural entrepreneurship projects through the establishment of productive networks based on the existing culinary creative chain;
- investing in the development of infrastructure to help foster access and flow of cultural goods and services related to traditional cuisine, with an emphasis on market squares;
- increasing the number of traditional cooks participating in cultural events, creating spaces for the promotion of culinary know-how and products; and
- introducing other cities to important Afro-Colombian history and involving them in traditional culinary cultural events and activities to share experiences and best practices.