Cartagena de Indias (in Spanish; the usual English pronunciation is ), is a large city seaport on the northern coast of Colombia. Capital of the Bolívar Department, it has a population of 1,240,000 in its Metropolitan Area, and 1,090,000 in the city (2005 Census), being the fifth largest urban area in Colombia. Founded in 1533 by Spaniard Don Pedro de Heredia, and named after the port of Cartagena in Spain's Murcia region, it was a major center of early Spanish settlement in the Americas which had impressive development in the XVIII century as the de facto capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada and as the main hub of commerce and transportation in the late viceroyal era, situation that is reflected in its alternative capitality today. Nowadays continues to be the economic hub of the Caribbean region as well as a popular tourist destination.
The Caribbean region, particularly in the area from the Sinu river delta to the Cartagena de Indias bay, appears to be the first documented human community in today's Colombia: the Puerto Hormiga Culture.
Until the Spanish colonization many cultures derived from the Karib, Malibu and Arawak language families lived along the Caribbean Colombian coast. In the late pre-Columbian era, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, was home to the Tayrona people, closely related with the Chibcha family language.
Archaeologists estimate that around 7000 BC, the settlement of the formative Puerto Hormiga Culture, located near the limits between the departments of Bolívar and Sucre was established. In this area archaeologists have found the most ancient ceramic objects in the Americas, dating from around 4000 BC. The primary reason for the proliferation of primitive societies in this area is the relative mildness of climate and the abundance of wildlife which through continuous hunting allowed the inhabitants a comfortable life.
In today's villages of Maria la Baja, Sincerín, El Viso and Mahates, there have also been discoveries of the remains of culturally organized societies through the excavation of maloka type buildings, which are directly related to the early Puerto Hormiga settlements.
Archaeological investigations date the decline of the Puerto Hormiga culture and its related settlements to around 3000 BC. The rise of a much more developed culture, the Monsú, who lived at the end of the Dique Canal, near today's Cartagena neighborhoods Pasacaballos and Ciénaga Honda at the northernmost part of Barú Island. The Monsú culture inherited the Puerto Hormiga culture´s use of the art of pottery but also developed a mixed economy of agriculture and basic manufacture. the Mosú people's diet was based mostly on seashells, sweet- and salt-water fish.
The ethnologists who discovered Monsú, the Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff marriage, found an interesting artificial mound created by them consisting in vases and rests of skeletons. After the first excavations, the Monsú mound was found to be a communal hut that had strong wood logs around it and was built on different levels, each one from a different period of time. The most ancient of these is the Turbana Period, from 3350 BC. This archaeological zone, less than 6 miles from Cartagena de Indias' downtown boasts the most complete collection of ceramic instruments in Colombia and the American continent. The ceramic patterns found in Monsú, are a tour de force for students of archeology of the Caribbean sea basin and northern South America.
The Reichel-Dolmatoffs later found other artificial mounds, dating from 3200 to 1000 BC, thus making the suburbs of modern Cartagena the seat of the first organized society in Colombia, and one of the most ancient in the Americas.
The development of the Sinú society in today's department of Cordoba and Sucre, eclipsed these first developments around the Cartagena Bay area. Around 1500 the area was inhabited by different tribes of the Karib language family, more precisely the Mocanae sub-family. These were:
Some subsidiary tribes of the Kalamari lived in today's neighborhood of Pie de la Popa, and other subsidiaries from the Cospique lived in the Membrillal and Pasacaballos areas. Among these, according to the first chronicles the Kalamari Tribe had preeminence.
These tribes, though physically and administratively separated, shared common architecture, such as hut structures consisting of circular rooms with tall roofs inside wooden palisades.
In this first trip, he passed away Cartagena de Indias's bay but noted that in future voyages he will investigate this "immense bay, perfect for ships." This second trip was made in 1530, and the calculations were true: it was an enormous bay of sq mi9with profound waters. After the discovery, De Bastidas returned to Santa Marta, recently founded by him in 1528.
The dramatically increasing fame of the prosperous city turned it an attractive plunder site for pirates and corsaires. Just 30 years after its foundation, it was pillaged by French Pirate Robert Baal and since then the city began to rebuild itself in more noble materials (stone and similars) and surrounded by walled compounds and castles. Martin Cote attacked years later.
The initial life in the city was quite bucolic, less than 2000 inhabitants and only one church. A few months after the disaster of the invasion of Cote, a fire took the city to its grounds and forced the creation of a Firefighting Squad, the first in the Americas.
Many pirates intended the same on Cartagena who was more and more notorious in the thieves' guilds in Europe:
Other important events in the XVI-XVII century were:
The fame of this prosperous city turned it into the plunder site for pirates and thieves; the legions for the country’s defence soon became insufficient, which is why the kings of Spain decided to approve the construction of castles, forts, and walls that surrounded the city.
In order to resist these attacks, during the 17th century the Spanish Crown hired the services of prominent European military engineers to carry out the construction of fortresses, which are nowadays one of Cartagena's clearest signs of identity. This construction took 208 years, and ended with some eleven kilometres of walls surrounding the city, the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, named in honor of Spain's King Philip IV and its most decided public servant in the construction: Gov. Pedro Zapata de Mendoza, Marquis of Barajas, constructed to repel land attacks, equipped with sentry boxes, buildings for food and weapons storage, underground tunnels;
The complex was completed with:
Explanations are unnecessary: when the defenses were finished in 1756, the city was simply impossible to take over. There is a legend, that when reviewing the costs of the defenses of Spain in Havana and Cartagena de Indias, in an effort to reform the chronic spending of his predecessors, Charles III of Spain, in his famed ironical style said while taking his spyglass: "This is outrageous! For this price those castles should be seen from here! (Peninsular Spain)."
Cartagena was a major trading port, specially for precious metals. Gold and silver from the mines in New Granada and Peru were loaded in Cartagena on the galleons bound for Spain via Havana. Cartagena was also a slave port; Cartagena and Veracruz (México) were the only cities authorized to trade with black people. The first slaves arrived with Pedro de Heredia and they worked as cane cutters to open roads, in the desecration of tombs of the aboriginal population of Sinu, and in the construction of buildings and fortresses. The agents of the Portuguese company Cacheu distributed human 'cargos' from Cartagena for mine exploitation in Venezuela, the West Indies, the Nuevo Reino de Granada and the Viceroyalty of Perú.
On 5 February 1610, the Catholic Monarchs established from Spain the Inquisition Holy Office Court in Cartagena de Indias by a Royal Decree issued by King Philip II. The Inquisition Palace, finished in 1770, is still there with its original features of colonial times. When Cartagena declared its complete independence from Spain on November 11, 1811, the inquisitors were urged to leave the city. The Inquisition operated again after the Reconquest in 1815, but it disappeared definitely when Spain surrendered six years later before the patriotic troops led by Simón Bolívar.
In March 1741 the city endured a large-scale attack by British and American colonial troops led by admiral Edward Vernon, who arrived at Cartagena with a massive fleet of 186 ships and 23,600 men against only 6 Spanish ships and 3,600 men, in an action known as the Battle of Cartagena de Indias. After weeks of intense fighting, the siege was repelled by the Spanish and native forces led by commander General Blas de Lezo, who inflicted heavy casualties on the English troops. This victory prolonged Spain's control of the Caribbean waters, which helped secure its large Empire until the 19th century. Admrial Vernon was accompanied by American Colonial trooops, including George Washington's brother, Lawrence, who was so impressed with Vernon he named Mount Vernon after him.
For more than 250 years, Cartagena was part of the Spanish Crown. On November 11th, 1811, Cartagena declared its independence, and began another chapter in its history that has been anything but easy, its title ‘The Heroic City’ is well earned and reflects the life of the city.
Cartagena de Indias also averages around 90% humidity, with a rainy season typically in April-May and October-November.
Its important to note, that though the climate tends to be hot generally throughout the year, its always windy, and that is a factor to have in account that makes the climate livable and even comfortable. The months of November to February tend to be the most windy months in the year, giving an extra cooling to the low temperatures of those months.
Cartagena de Indias, has the blessing that while being a caribbean sea city, is never touched by the hurricanes that decimate other caribbean capitals like Havana, Santo Domingo, Kingston or San Juan. The reason of this is that the city is in the caribbean but in the mainland and also quite southernly, isolating it from the wind currents that feed the hurricanes. The last hurricane to arrive the city was the strange arrival Joanne in 1981, and was debilitated after passing Puerto Rico.
After those tombs were fully ravaged, the population began to scatter to the countryside and decided to establish as farmers, thus the total numbers of the city decreased.
Though the silver age of the city was to come, the trade began to boom in the city and never stopped during the 1600 and atracted lots of inmigrants. The city reached its peak of steady growth in 1698 before the arrival of the Baron de Pointis.
The XVIII century though, with the Bourbon dynasty and its pro-trade policies benefited the city and made it prosper again. During this period of time, the city passed the psychological barrier of 18.000 inhabitants, which was at the time the population cap of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Of the Censuses of the XVIII century that were made in the city, its important to mention the Census of 1778, made by the governor of that time, D. Juan de Torrezar Diaz Pimienta -after Viceroy of New Grenada-, by order from the Marquis of Ensenada, Minister of Finance in order to present his proyect of the Catastro tax, an universal property tax that he believed to be the way to liberate the economy while increasing dramatically the Royal coffres entrances, Though the census was made in the most important cities of the Spanish Empire, enemies of Ensenada in the court made bad publicity of the plan with the King Charles III also busy with the ongoing war with Britain. This census of 1778, besides its economical history importance, its also interesting because in order to cuantify the import of the hypothetical tax, the house had to be described throughly, with its occupants, making this Census an important tool for Restoration Architects in Cartagena de Indias's city centre still used today. The original of the Census is Preserved in the Museum of History of the City while a Copy rests in the Archivo de Indias in Seville.
This condition of biggest city of the Viceroyalty standed until 1811, when the Peninsular War then converted in Wars of Independence and the Piñeres's Revolts, marked the beggining of a dramatic decline of the virtual capital of the New Grenada in all areas.
In 1815 the city was almost destroyed. No census information exists of this time, only accounts of how the city literally was a Ghost town. Only around 500 impoverished freed slaves dweelled the city whose palaces and public buildings turned into ruins and many wall curtains collapsed.
Recuperation, but slow, began after, but stopped with the general economic and political instability of the country at that time. Also, an isolationist economic policy from the andean elites doomed to poverty the exporter potential areas.
Several famines and outbursts of Cholera in the mid 1800's like in the rest of the world, decimated the city and also threatened it, again, to dissapear.
Since the 1880s the city began to recover from its crisis, and continued a bit slower after the 1929 crash but still vigorous. The entrance of Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Chinese and other imnmigrant comunities was in this period of time.
Between 1930 and 1970 the city showed great population growth, in rates higher than the national average and higher than the Bogota, which boomed predominantly because of internal displacement and the hope of work opportunities in the verge of increasing centralization. By 1970, the population spur stopped.
But stopped to increase even faster. The population growth was dramatical since the 1980s with a mixture of the privatization of the port infrastructure, the descentralization of tourism funds and also the sad fact that proportionally to its population its the city that has received the most internally displaced from the countryside with the escalation of the civil war in the 1990's in the andean regions looking for safety in the carribbean capital.
Today the city shows a continuing tendency of the population enlargement that began in the mid 80's. Birth rate and relatively normal death rates feed the ongoing economic expansion.
The Metropolitan area of Cartagena is formed by:
In this area find the Rafael Núñez International Airport, in the neighborhood of Crespo, only ten minutes away from downtown or the old part of the city and fifteen minutes away from the modern area. It must be said that this large area is that with the greatest long-term urban development. Here you will find the majestic Coralia Américas Hotel, and several educational institutions.
If you decide you'd like to relive the history of Cartagena, go to the Ciudad Amurallada (Walled City), also called "Centro Histórico" and "Corralito de Piedra", where you will find four sectors, each one with a peculiar story to tell: San Diego, La Matuna, Getsemaní and Santo Domingo.
Downtown is undoubtedly the heart of the city and the most evident testimony of its history. It has a varied architecture, mainly of a colonial style, but there are also republican and Italian style buildings, such as the Cathedral's bell tower.
The official entrance to downtown is through Puerta del Reloj (Clock Gate), which comes out onto Plaza de los Coches (Square of the Carriages). A few steps from there there is the Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square), next to the mayor's office. Nearby is San Pedro Claver Square, and his namesake's church, as well as the Museum of Modern Art.
Nearby is the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolívar's Square) and the Palace of the Inquisition to one side. Not to far is the office of Historical Archives which holds Cartagena's history. Next to the archives is the Government Palace, the office building of the Governor of the Department of Bolivar. Across from the palace is the Cathedral of Cartagena which dates back to the 16th century.
There is another religious temple that you should take time to admire: The restored Santo Domingo Church, in front of Plaza Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Square). The square was decorated with the sculpture Mujer Reclinada ("Reclining Woman"), a gift from the renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
Another notable building is the Teatro Heredia (Heredia Theater), an architectural jewel located in front of the Plaza de la Merced. A few meters away is the Calle de la Factoría (Factory Street); on it is the Marquis of Valdehoyos House which now functions as the Historical Photographic Library.
A little bit further on is Augustinian Fathers Convent is the University of Cartagena. This university is a higher education center, opened to the public in the late 19th century. The Claustro de Santa Teresa (Saint Theresa Cloister), which has been remodeled into a hotel, operated by Charleston Hotels became an upscale Colombian hotel chain. It has its own square, protected by the San Francisco Bastion.
It was named after San Diego Convent, nowadays the Beaux Arts School Building. In front of it you will find Convent of the Nuns of the Order of Saint Claire, now the beautiful Hotel Santa Clara. In the surrounding area you will find Santo Toribio Church, the last church built in the Walled City, and next to it, Fernández de Madrid Square, in honor of Cartagena's hero José Fernández de Madrid, whose statue can be seen here.
Inside the Old City, you have to go to Las Bóvedas (The Vaults), a construction attached to the walls in the Santa Catalina Bastion. From the top of this construction you will be able to view the Caribbean Sea.
The Matuna is the commercial and financial area par excellence in the city. Here you can also find affordable hotels, like Saint Philip Hotel, and affordable restaurants with good service.
This is one of the most representative neighborhoods in Cartagena. African people who were brought as slaves used to live here. Parque Centenario (Centennary Park) is the most prominent place in this area; built in 1911, it commemorates a century of independence.Inside, often obscured, you will find some interesting monuments, including one dedicated to the military. Parque Centenario also serves as a local police station and a mid afternoon pulpit for aspiring evangelists. Over the years, the park has acquired, through various means, a sloth, two Gila Monsters and a few monkeys. The Eastern edge of the park is split between a really good used book pavilion (with English books stowed away for the industrious traveller) and a selection of Seafood joints. Their seafood kiosks are often stocked by homeless folk fishing and bringing them to the various kiosks. This would cause a wary traveller to think twice before eating at one of these. On the other hand, these kiosks all run 24 hours, so there is always food available. In this very same area you will find Cartagena's Convention Center, Third Order Church and San Francisco Cloister. You will also see San Roque and of the Trinity churches, in the square with the same name. Note that the entirety of the Old City has the same architectural styles as the area surrounded by The Walls.
There is a great boutique hotel in this neighborhood called Casa El Carretero It has been featured on the New York times and Travel & Leisure.
Bocagrande (Big Mouth) is the most modern area of the city, with many hotels, shops, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries. It forms part of a land extension delimited by Cartagena Bay to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west, where you will find El Laguito (The Little Lake) and Castillogrande (Big Castle), two renowned neighborhoods. Its particular appeal are the beaches and nightlife. All over Avenida San Martín (Saint Martin Avenue), which is the backbone of the area, you will find several business premises, restaurants and hotels.
The beaches of BocaGrande, laying along the Northern shore, are muddy affairs. There are breakwaters about every two hundred yards and the desired azure of the Caribbean is lost by the almost sea level rise of the beach and the lack of proper waste disposal in the city. It takes about seven minutes worth of a boat ride out to sea to see the color that you desire of the Caribbean.
On the bay side of the pensinsula of Boca Grande is a spectacular seawalk. The centre of the Bay holds a statue of the Virgin Mary. The seawalk is the site of an interesting showing of the various contestants of the Miss Colombia Pageant during that festival.
Originally constructed for foreign oil workers, the majority of the land which makes up Bocagrande was established through land reclamation. Bocagrande is now considered the city's most popular area for tourists.
Cartagena has experienced heavy urban development in recent years, particularly with the construction of new skyscrapers. As of October 2007, there were 42 high-rises under construction, including an effort to create Colombia's tallest, the Torre de la Escollera. The new high-rise, extraordinarily narrow, was expected to be completed in early 2007, and was planned to stand at and have 58 floors. However, a construction defect, accentuated by the strong Caribbean winds, has led to its dismantling. A new, twenty-story building will be constructed in its place. The building reached the 56th floor (in girders, solely) before the wind bent the structure severely.
As the commercial and touristic hub of the country the city has many transportation facilities, particularly in the seaport, air, and fluvial areas.
To the southeast the city has more entrances:
Road 25: Going through Turbaco and Arjona, and through the Montes de María when a fork divides it continuing to Sincelejo as National 25 and finally ending in Medellín, and to the east to Valledupar as number 80.
Road 25 A: Going also to Sincelejo, but avoiding the mountains, finally connects with 25 in the forementioned city.
This growing general air traffic shift from the interior to this coastal airport, studies had been made to build a bigger new airport in the area of Barbacoas Bay in the southern city limits. This airport, if aproved may be finished by 2020, the proyect favored by many in the region and others parts of the country as economically convenient is recelled in Bogotá and is in a standstill.
The open ports of the City are:
Its important to note, that the first have adquired the assets of the last to develop a new port in the external bay that intends to duplicate the container capacity of the port in general by 2011 and triplicate it in 2015.
Of the private ports of the City we can mention:
Many caribbean and cartagenian political leaders argue that this state of affairs may change with a return to the pre-independence funding and tax system and the canal would be maintained properly and even expanded, benefiting in general the national economy.
|City||Land distance||Aprox. Time by land||Aprox. Time by sea or river.||Aprox. Time by air|
|Barranquilla||93 Km.||1 h.||10 h.||15 min.|
|Santa Marta||192 Km.||2 h. 20 min||14 h.||25 min.|
|Sincelejo||144 Km.||2 h. 10 min||Not applicable||15 min.|
|Montería||256 Km.||3 h. 45 min||Not applicable||30 min.|
|Medellín||689 Km.||14 h. 50 min||Not applicable||50 min.|
|Bogotá||1092 Km.||1 day, 4 h. 15 min||Not applicable||1 h 05 min.|
|Caracas||1234 Km.||1 day 6 h.||Not applicable||2 h.|
|Panama||689 Km.||Not applicable||4 days||50 min.|
|Lima||6830 Km.||3 days, 2 h.||1 week||5 h 05 min.|
|Sydney||30900 Km.||Not applicable||3 weeks||12 h.|
|Tokyo||53000 Km.||Not applicable||1 month||23 h.|
|Buenos Aires||15900||1 week, 5 days.||4 weeks||8 h.|
|Madrid||19902 Km.||Not applicable||Not applicable||8 h.|
|Paris||24820||Not applicable||Not applicable||11 h.|
|New York||10900 Km||Not applicable||2 weeks||4 h.|
The Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments of Cartagena were selected in 1984 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for being located in a bay by the Caribbean Sea, having the most extensive fortifications in South America. A system of zones that divides the city into three neighborhoods: San Pedro, with the cathedral and many Andalusian-style palaces; San Diego, where merchants and the middle class lived; and Getsemani, the 'popular quarters'.