Founded in 1537 by Sebastián de Belalcázar, Popayán quickly became an important administrative center of the viceroyalty of New Granada because of its position on the Cartagena–Quito gold route. Although the town was largely destroyed by an earthquake on Good Friday in 1983, its colonial buildings have all been painstakingly rebuilt. Hotel rooms must be booked months ahead of time for Semana Santa, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, when the streets are filled with colorful religious processions.
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