24 March, 2019 17:03
The first feeling I got when I step out the plane was a brutal heat and humidity accompanied with the smell of sea. When you are borned in the Caribbean and have lived in a big city without it for a long time, this is translated into an unarguable sensation of freedom and happiness. I was back in the coast and ready get the most of it.
Cartagena de Indias is located in the Caribbean coast, where its city centre is preserved within 13 Km of centuries-old colonial stone walls, today considered an Unesco World Heritage. Is a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies, massive churches and plazas, which in difference with other cities, you should not just tick off all the sights but instead, stroll through the town looking for the different restaturants and bars to enjoy.
The city was founded in the 16th century by Pedro Heredia, where it quickly grew into a rich town, later turning into the main Spanish port of the Caribbean coast and the major northern gateway to South America. Also, it came to be the storehouse for the treasure plundered from the local population until the galleons could ship it back to Spain. A tempting target for buccaneers operating in the Caribbean.
It suffered five sieges by pirates, one of the most famous led by Sir Francis Drake. The port was sacked and agreed not to level the town once he was presented with a huge ransom of 10 million pesos, which he shipped back to England.
As a response, the Spanish built up a series of forts around the town, saving the city from subsequent sieges. The one you will hear the most occured in the 18th century, when Edward Vernon attacked the city, and the spanish Blas de Lezo, an officer who had already lost an arm, a leg and an eye in previous battles, commanded 2500 poorly trained and ill-equipped men, to fend off 25000 English soldiers and their ships. In the fighting he lost his other leg and died soon, but is now regarded as the savior of Cartagena. You can see his statue outside the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
During the colonial period, Cartagena was the most important bastion of the Spanish overseas empire and influenced much of Colombia's history. Cartagena was connected with the river Magdalena, making it the main gateway for ships heading to ports upriver, and a large part of merchandise shipped inland.
Cartagena was the first town to proclaim independence from Spain, early in 1810, which push Bogota and other cities to do the same, but it was not until 1821, when the patriot forces eventually retook the city by sea that got independent. Bolivar gave Cartagena its well-deserved name of "La Heroica", the Heroic City.
Cartagena began to recover and was again turned into an important trading and shipping center. This attracted foreign immigrants, which today their descendants own many businesses, including hotels and restaurants.