Cartagena: a Caribbean town surrounded with walls

Its full name is Cartagena de Indias, but everyone calls it Cartagena. Long before it became a post card city Spanish came to this place and decided to found a port city surrounded with walls: year 1533. It reminds me Havana’s Malecón, ocean waves breaking on the shore, the gentle breeze coming from the Caribbean sea gives an air of freedom to this place. These walls, maybe, give me that sensation of ‘being in a movie set’, as if I am inside a story with a beginning and an end; it is like the...

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The squares of Cartagena: Plaza de la Aduana- the Customs’ Square

As you enter the old town from the main gate of Clock Tower, you turn left and walk straight and arrive to this square which is called the Customs Square or the Royal Square. This was the place where the goods arriving at the port were checked. The Chamber of Commerce and Customs were also located here, as well as the houses of the Mayor and the Marquis. In the 16th century commerce meant both the commerce of the goods and the commerce of the slaves. Slavery and inquisition (we will visit the...

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The squares of Cartagena: Plaza de San Pedro Claver

We left the Customs Square behind. We pass the Modern Art Museum on our left and we arrive to another square: this Plaza is dedicated to a Saint. San Pedro Claver’s bones are inside the Convent. The church next to it has such an elegant door I can’t stop myself taking a picture in front of it. The sculpture of San Pedro in front of the Convent shows him with his Slave, probably teaching him the new religion. Other sculptures at the plaza belong to more ‘ordinary people’: a group of people...

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The squares of Cartagena: The Square and the Park of Bolivar

We left behind the San Pedro Square and started to walk towards the centre of the old town. As we arrive to another square we see on our right the Gold Museum which we will visit soon. At the other side of the square is located the Inquisition Palace (details in the next story). The Square is also a park, with a horse sculpture in the middle and there is always a dance show and percussion music going on. It’s always live and full of people. As we passed through the Customs Square, the Square...

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Museo del Oro: The Gold Museum and the people of Zenu

This Museum is dedicated to the culture and people of Zenu. Around 200 to 1600 B.C. the area of the north of today’s Colombia, at the interior lands of the Caribbean shores, developed the culture of the people of Zenu. The people were farmers, hunters, with an advanced level of civilisation: they built water channels, developed the gold craft and left us many pieces, clue to their life, that are now exhibited in this museum. Unfortunately with the arrival of the Spanish it came to an end. The...

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Museo de la Inquisición: The Inquisition Museum, a shameful page of colonial history

This Palace is situated at the Plaza de Bolivar, its doors is maybe one of the most beautiful doors of Cartagena and one cannot stop and think how come such an elegant building was used as a place of tortures and executions; it is a real irony! The Inquisition Tribunal was founded in Cartagena in 1610 as the third Tribunal following the ones in Mexico City and Lima. Some numbers: the Tribunal lasted some 211 years, more than 800 people were arrested, 56 of them were executed (some of them...

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The history of the city of Cartagena: from Calamary to Cartagena de Indias

This part of the Place of Inquisition is dedicated to the history of Cartagena. How did this place called Cartagena de Indias was founded, how did it become this port city? Long before the European white man arrived at this land there was a different life; several tribes with thousands of people, with its own social structure, a belief system, an agricultural organisation, used to live here. Around 3500 yeas B.C., the Tainos and the Karibs are some of them. We actually have a lot of...

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Museo de Arte Moderna: The Modern Art Museum

I am walking from the Customs Square to the Square of San Pedro and I see this museum on my left, a one store rock stone building with a high ceiling. I go inside, at the entrance the photographs of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a note on the wall signed by himself. He is telling the story of this building, with that style of him, as if he’s telling the destiny of a person. When he was a young journalist spending his nights in a state of ‘insomnia’, they used to come here late at night early in...

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A Caribbean master, sculpture and painter: Enrique Grau

He is also the founders of this Museum of Modern Art. I am so happy to know him and see these extraordinary sculptures. He was born in Panama (1920-2004), yet he is accepted as an artist from Cartagena. Both in his sculptures and in his paintings you can see the women of Cartagena: strong, yet emotional. A girl listening to gramophone, a woman with her ‘robe de chambre’ holding a phone, a couple dancing valse, a fortune teller holding a tarot card; all real characters and real moments. His...

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The squares of Cartagena: Plaza Santo Domingo and the Cathedral

It takes its name from the church that covers one side of the square. Most of the visitors will remember the Botero sculpture in front of the church, a naked lady in horizontal position with one arm behind her head. The church has a beautiful soft yellow-orange colour that reminds me the churches of Mexican colonial cities, they look as if less darker than the ones in Europe. I go inside and spend some time to enjoy the details of this beautiful architecture. The yellow white corridors, the...

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City walks: From Santo Domingo Square to Teatro Adolfo Mejía: a pink white pearl

Indeed, a city walk in this little old town can be made in one day, but I recommend you to walk slowly and enjoy every detail and take your time. As you leave behind the Santo Domingo Square and take the street Calle de la Factoria and walk towards the sea you, and turn right at the end of the street you fill see a beautiful building. This elegant building which looks like a pink-white pearl here at the corner of Cartagena’s walls was once a church; it was the Church of La Merced. Built in...

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City walks: From Fernandez de Madrid Square to Gabriel Garcia Marquez house

Every one calls this place Plaza de Madrid. If you read the sign on the corner you learn that it is called Plaza Fernandez de Madrid. Long before it was called the wells square, the women slaves used to come here carrying jugs on their shoulders to take water. It is a big square, a park-square actually, like Plaza de Bolivar. It is surrounded by cafés, restaurants, houses, bars. You need to take the right as you enter the old town from the Clock Tower to reach here. My purpose is to find...

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More than a coffee break: a café-bookstore in Cartagena

I just left behind the white-pink Theatre of Heredia and walk through the street of Carrera 4, without knowing where I am going to; that’s good! Because I arrive at this corner and see a café looking right at the crossroad, with a little terrace where I see two tables. As I go inside I realise that it’s also a bookstore, with books climbing to the ceiling. A heaven! Before I go inside I start having a talk with another traveler, so I sit and have a coffee with him, then a lady next to us...

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The ‘rare destiny’ of the doors of Cartagena

So tells Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in his note at the entrance of the Modern Art Museum of Cartagena. The doors, in this little Caribbean town, have a destiny like people do. You see one of them as a gate of a house, a year later, it is the from door of a hair dresser. The one which opens the most elegant palace in Cartagena, for example, the Palace of Inquisition, never tells you that you are going inside a building where people were brutally killed. The doors of the Church, exceptionally...

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Centre of the Getsemani neighbourhood: Plaza de la Trinidad

The first place I saw when I arrived Cartagena, I’m staying in a little street by the square. You’ll always find a row of people sitting in front of the church, maybe a music band playing, or some workers cleaning the streets at 5 a.m. in the morning if you are waiting for your car to Santa Marta like me. Any time of the day the light and the shadow of the palm trees on the façade will get your attention. Plaza de la Trinidad, the Square of Trinity, in Getsemani had a major importance in...

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Tayrona: a magical trip to Santa Marta’s Tayrona National Park

I have counted days in Cartagena, and have no idea that I will go to the national park of Tayrona. But if something’s going to happen you cannot stop it! I arrive late at night in Cartagena and take a cab to the hotel, as we go along the coast we come close to the old town and turn left towards Getsemani, the streets are lively and though the clock shows 11 p.m. the Trinidad Square is full of people. The cab driver stops and shows me the narrow street on the left, ‘I cannot go into that road,...

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