Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Saturday, October 29, 2022

South America : Day 17 : Cartagena - A city with a past and a future…

Today we set out to explore Cartagena proper. Being a port on the Caribbean coast it was (and still is) a gateway to the world. 

The Spanish founded the town in the 16th century and it quickly became a thriving port. It was dominated in those early years by trade with Europe (mainly ‘export’ of gold!) and the terrible slave trade. The town are attacked at various times by the Portuguese, the British, and pirates - all after a share of the city. 

Much of the Spanish colonial architecture still exists and what is new is generally sympathetic to the same style. 

Cartagena is famous for something else too. It’s knockers. (See later post for more on that.)

The city is beautiful. There is a happy buzz about the place. We felt very safe, and very welcome. 

In fact while walking around we were struck about how relaxed the locals were with tourism. I guess it’s been a part of the city since it was founded 400 years ago and especially since liberation in 1811. 

One thing that we did see was plenty of examples how racism has effected the city over the centuries. The buildings built for the slave trade. The forced conversion of locals and slaves to Catholicism. The terrible Inquisition of any non-conformists. The torture that went on. The more recent purges in the late 1990s as innocent Afro-Colombian people were rounded up and killed by the Colombian Army claiming falsely they had killed guerrillas. 

There are many art projects in the city representing these terrible atrocities. Black street art, paintings by black residents and artists, and exhibitions for children and adults alike. It was very moving and often inspiring.

Cartagena is not a city to shy away from its past. 

Nor it’s future, as our guide told us (who was Afro-Colombian), black-run businesses are springing up all over the place. 

It’s a fascinating place and I strongly recommend you come and discover it for yourself. 

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