Valledupar, located in the northeast of Colombia, is the capital of the Cesar department. The city, named after Cacique Upar, the Amerindian chief who once ruled the valley, is a testament to the historical roots of the Chimila tribe in the region.
The legendary Cacique Upar
Cacique Upar, the supreme leader of the Chimilas, a Chibchan tribe that inhabited the vast coastal territory between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Andes, held a sacred position.
During the conquest era, the Chimila territory was divided into the regions of Pocabuy and Upar, each with its cities and chiefs under the authority of a supreme chief, a sacred figure representing divinity.
Upar was situated along the riverbanks of the area. It thrived with artisans, farmers, beekeepers, and musicians who believed in a benevolent deity and the immortality of the soul.
The role of Cacique or tribe leader
The path to becoming a tribe chief, or Cacique, involved demonstrating intelligence, cunning, and strength. However, true consecration before the Sun God and Mother Moon was essential to earn the title of Upar, which means strength, courage, and justice.
Attaining this cherished role required selflessness and genuine love for one’s own people.
Cacique Upar in contemporary culture
The Festival of the Vallenato Legend, Colombia’s most important celebration of vallenato music, honors winners with a gold statuette resembling Cacique Upar. The festival, organized by the Vallenato Legend Festival Foundation, showcases and preserves the various rhythms of vallenato.
This annual event, held in Valledupar since 1968, features genres like paseo, merengue, son, and puya, along with activities highlighting the cultural aspects of vallenato.
Valledupar also pays tribute to Cacique Upar with a monument at the roundabout of the Transportation Terminal in the commercial area. Created by local artist Jorge Maestre, this sculpture is a testimony to the city’s cultural heritage.
Valledupar’s cultural richness extends to the visual arts, with the sculpture of Cacique Upar as a symbol of historical pride. Its presence in the bustling commercial area reflects the city’s commitment to preserving and sharing its heritage.