Popayán (pōpäyänˈ) [key], city (1993 pop. 169,423), alt. 5,500 ft (1,676 m), capital of Cauca dept., SW Colombia, on a volcanic terrace high above the Cauca River. It produces textiles and foodstuffs. Popayán was founded in 1536 by Sebastián de Benalcázar and during colonial times was a wealthy and aristocratic trade center. After Colombia gained independence in the 19th cent., the city lost much of its commercial preeminence but remained a major cultural center. Points of interest include many fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture and a university founded in 1640.