By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises
We arrived in steamy Cartagena in the afternoon and overnighted, catching our breath in one of the most handsome old Spanish colonial cities of the New World.
Cartagena was the Fort Knox, the Las Vegas, the Tower of London: one of the principal offshore gold repositories and warehouses for the Spanish.
And for that reason it came under attack many times.
Colombians call Cartagena “La Heroica.” The Heroic City.
Here are some photos I took on this visit to Cartagena:
CARTAGENA, APRIL 2015. All photos by Corey Sandler
La Popa Monastery
FUERTE SAN FELIPPE
Within the Walls of the Old City of Cartagena
In 1533—35 years after Columbus sailed nearby and almost a century before Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620—Spanish explorer Don Pedro de Heredia founded a settlement he called Cartagena de Indias.
Cartegena of the Indies, to distinguish it from Cartagena on the Mediterranean in southeastern Spain.
In 1513, Vasco Nunez de Balboa and his men walked across the Isthmus of Panama and became the first Europeans to see the Pacific Ocean from its Eastern shore.
The Spanish soon got into the business of conducting trade with Asia from what is now Mexico and California as well as pillaging Central and South America.
Traders brought back spices, silks, porcelain, ivory, and lacquerware. And there was gold.
Much of the Asian treasure was carried up and over the Cordillera to Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, then reloaded onto galleons through the Gulf of Mexico…the home of the real Pirates of the Caribbean.
Cartagena became the central warehouse for the treasures that came from Asia and much of the gold and silver taken from the Americas.
And it also became one of the principal targets of the real pirates of the Caribbean.
Spanish King Philip II, known as “the Prudent,” did not like losing his stuff to pirates and privateers. And so he hired Europe’s foremost military engineers to design and build Fuerte San Felipe.
The massive network of seven forts and defensive walls average 40 feet high and 56 feet thick. It became Spain’s largest fort in the Americas.
Today the heart of old Cartagena is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets that open onto broad formal plazas. Street names change from block to block.
It might remind you of Istanbul, or Mdina on Malta. But instead of Muslim calls to prayer, it’s salsa and vallenato music all the time.
Cartagena’s history includes the sad story of slavery, the cruelty of some of the Spanish including a branch of the Inquisition, and more recent devolution into narcoterrorist chaos.
A CARTAGENA ALBUM
After many years of neglect, Cartagena—the jewel of the nation—has been reborn.
For those who have a bit of money, the city is a Caribbean playground: A wild party in a place of great culture. They call it rumbeando.
“Partying, dancing all night, getting drunk, waking up early to go to the beach, then doing it again.”
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