CARTAGENA (Colombia)Cartagena (over 900,000 inhabitants), capital of the Bolívar department, is located on the Caribbean coast. The city was founded in 1533 and until the 19th century was one of the most important ports in Spanish America. Ships full of gold, silver, sugar and coffee left for Spain from this location. Dutch and British pirates often hijacked ships and destroyed the city. It has massive city walls and a huge fortress, which are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Cartagena is a popular tourist destination and along its beaches there are hundreds of hotels and restaurants. The climate is tropical, with a fresh sea breeze.
The indigenous people resisted the foreign invaders and a girl from the Mokaná people was kidnapped and placed in a nunnery school in Santo Domingo to learn Spanish. After years, she was returned to Colombia and convinced indigenous leaders to make peace with the Spanish. Her name was ‘India Catalina’ (Indian Catalina, +/- 1495-1538).
Palaces, churches and libraries were built from 1750 to 1800. In the 20th century, immigrants came from Europe, Syria, Lebanon and China and industry was established: an oil refinery, chemical industry, and logistics for the ports.
The enormous fortress, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, is situated on a 40m high hill. Torre del Reloj (the Clock Tower) forms the entrance.
Cartagena is popular as a film location and for festivals. The inner city is a large open-air museum with numerous old buildings and churches and is visited by cruise ships. In November, the Miss Colombia competition will be held.
The Catholic Church was part of the Spanish colonial system. In 1610, the Inquisition was established in Cartagena. This court prosecuted people suspected of witchcraft and idolatry. They were tortured until they confessed and sentenced to fines, whipping, hanging or burning. In 1811, the Inquisition building was looted by the population. It is now the Museo Histórico de Cartagena (Historical Museum of Cartagena).
San Pedro Claver (1580 – 1654) was a priest of the Jesuit order. From 1614 to 1654, he worked in Cartagena, the largest slave market in the region. He baptised slaves on arrival, and brought fruit, tobacco and brandy; he also washed and cared for the sick during plague, yellow fever and malaria epidemics. Pedro Claver called himself ‘the slave of the negroes’; he was canonised in 1888 and considered their patron saint. His mortal remains are kept in the church named after him.
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