Cartagena, Colombia

This post is part of a series called Latin America
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Silence was diaphanous in the four o’clock heat, and through the bedroom window one could see the outline of the old city with the afternoon sun at its back, its golden domes, its sea in flames all the way to Jamaica.García Márquez

January 26-February 7 2018

Cartagena de Indias was our last stop on this leg of our trip through Colombia.



A major port founded in 1533, located on the northern coast of Colombia on the Caribbean Sea.



During the colonial era it was a key port for the export of Peruvian silver to Spain and for the import of African slaves under the asiento system. It was made defensible against pirate attacks in the Caribbean.



The old town where we stayed is made up of three separate neighborhoods, extremely photogenic, and the most popular tourist destination in the country.



The nieghborhoods are Santa Domingo, the political and commercial center; San Diego, an established residential neighborhood; and Getsamani, an arts and bohemian district.



Active plazas and squares, street food sellers, and performers and artists make walking around a feast for the senses. I chose to be here to celebrate my birthday due to it’s highly regarded night life and relaxing atmosphere. Maggie took me out for an amazing seafood feast to celebrate.



Cartagena’s door knockers (aldabas), found all throughout the old town, were directly tied to the inhabitants of the homes and served to communicate the family’s status. The larger the aldaba, the wealthier you probably were. The shape of the aldaba would give visitors a hint as to what the family wanted to be recognized for. Here are the meanings of different shapes:


Lizards: Aldabas shaped like lizards harkened back to the family’s Royal Spanish background.


Lion: You were probably in the military.


Maritime Motifs: If you had a maritime motif (like a mermaid or seahorse), you were probably a merchant bringing in goods with the help of the sea.


Hands: The meaning of this one tends to be more elusive. Some say it represents the hand of the Virgen of Fatima, and that it meant that this was a particularly religious family.



An easy place to travel to no matter your experience, and a lot of peoples first taste of South America due to proximity and ease of travel as a tourist hub. We found it to be a much different place than the rest of Colombia, especially the old town and nearby ‘Miami’ like (highrise condos and beaches) area known as Bocagrand; cut off from the traditional parts of the city.



Leaving Cartagena we both flew back for a quick break in the US. Maggie to California (and Utah) for work, and myself to South Carolina to visit familly for a few weeks. In a few days we will meet up again, heading back south for the next few months with trips to the Galapagos Islands, both the Cusco and Amazon regions of Peru, and the island of Roatan off the coast of mainland Honduras.




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