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Escape To Cali - Colombia - South America

Coco, Coca, Cacao, Cocada – Confusing with a capital C

Coco, Coca, Cacao, Cocada – Confusing with a capital C

Colombia really has its way with words and it’s easy to get things mixed up, especially when you’re still learning the language. Take these 4 words for example: coco, coca, cacao, cocada. All look very similar and can be easily mixed up by non Spanish speaking travelers.

Cacao is from where all chocolate comes from.

We’re gonna give you the low down on these 4 words to help you improve your Caleño Spanish which will serve you well in Cali and all over Colombia.

Rule 1: When looking for coconut (coco), shredded or whole, don’t ask for a bag of coca. Coca is the plant which natives are known to chew, and which hustlers are known to chemically process into cocaine. Many call cocaine “coca” though they are two distinct things. It would be interesting to be at the Alameda Market asking the guy twisting out coconuts for drugs.

Rule 2: With Rule #1 in mind, you can get coca leaves, to chew on or to drink in tea. Coca leaves have been found to be very high in Vitamins and Minerals, and within Colombia it’s legal to have a certain amount of leaf.

Rule 3: Cacao is from where all chocolate comes from. It’s not particularly easy to find in Colombia unless you can make it to Buenaventura or Tumaco, or other hot and rainy regions on the Pacific Coast. Colombia is not the largest producer of cacao, but that means that you may find a lot of local “wild” cacao from people’s personal farms, much like the cacao we got from Tumaco.

Rule 4: When you hear a woman in the streets, who sounds like a parrot, yelling “cocadas…cocadas,” run and find her. Cocadas are a sticky, sweet explosion of flavor, made of coconut and panela. From the Pacific Coast, these are sold by Afro-Colombian women, much like Chontaduro and Borojo.

Learning Spanish can be difficult and it’s amazing how many travelers go to other countries without knowing a single word. It doesn’t have to be that hard, and in fact, there are some great resources to help you learn Spanish, and possibly any other languages that you are interested in.

Knowing how to speak in Cali is key to making the most of your time. You’ll not only be able to understand people better, but more importantly, you’ll be able to feel the vibe of the city Keep your words tight travelers…until the next post.   

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