(and as soon as I find the memory card – you will have pictures….)
After talking to a number of people who have been here before, I signed up for a walking tour. I don’t know how safe things are and my Spanish is abysmal. Rather than take chances, I will stick with the group.
Cartagena itself has a long and bloody history – at least since the Spanish moved into the area. If you had forgotten, the Spanish were the ones who came to rob and loot, not particularly to settle. The idea was to fund with gold and silver from the new lands plus all the gemstones one could haul.
What could be hauled was a lot, as it turned out. Cartagena was established as a consolidation and defensive position on the northern coast of South America from which to ship riches home. The name itself was taken from the town of the same name in Spain. Officially this is Cartagena de Indias to distinguish it.
Given the Spanish predilection toward accumulation of wealth, it is not terribly surprising that they took a dim view of native populations in the area. Large numbers took ill with imported diseases, were pressed into labor or otherwise killed off over the decades. In fact Columbia as a whole suffered enough local population loss that it imported massive numbers of slaves from Africa.
If you want to hold and ship home 1000 tons of gold and more than 100 times that in silver you also invest in impressive forts, fortifications and walls around anything you consider important. The military defenses here at the time (hey we are talking 1500s and 1600s now) were some of the most expensive in the world. It was not just the ongoing battles with all of the other European powers which was creating a significant reason for needing a continuous influx of new wealth and valuables.
Can you spell pirate?
The tradition was established early and quite successfully in the Caribbean. I will not go into the details – you can go look them up if interested.
Today – the city is a contrast of old and new. White gleaming high rises of expensive homes next to new hotels line several of the shore lines while the old city is under historical preservation requirements resulting in many buildings starting to fall apart.
We made several stops along the way of the tour – first at the fortress, then at the Church building which now serves as an historical museum for the Inquisition as it was based in this area. Remember where I said importing of large numbers of slaves? The end result is that the Church found fertile ground for its campaign against witchcraft. In fact, the Inquisition was alive and active 200 years longer in Columbia than most of the rest of Spanish lands. I slid through the exhibits quickly and just waited for the group. Fanatics are fanatics – they believe in what they are doing. Thinking about it and looking at it doesn’t do anything for me.
Much more interesting to me were the street sculptures. Not just the requisite statues of Simon Bolivar, but fun and interesting metal welded works of every day activities. I wandered through them while the rest of the group toured a church. So it should not surprise you to note that I also skipped the Emerald shopping in favor of an Internet Cafe. Hardwires which is why you are getting separate posts.
I also skipped getting off the bus at the old dungeons which have been turned into artisan locations (but seems to have a lot of junk from what I could see). They looked like the standard rooms often built into fortification walls with narrow chambers and curved ceilings.
This apparently is Panama Canal crossing time. Today it is the Vision OTS and Coral Princess. Tomorrow it is the Millennium and Infinity. I am going to have to look it up, but I think it was the Coral Princess I saw last year in Panama. The Infinity should be bound for the western side of South America. None of which matter in the least to any of you.