Cartagena – Historic Center
Last year when I visited Cartagena, I wasn’t very fond of it. This was just another colonial town; I’d seen it a million times. The place is nothing more than a hotbed of tourists and locals constantly badgering you to buy sunglasses, cigarettes, and all other manner of merchandise. After spending time in the southern and central part of Colombia, more devoid of tourists than most places Gabe and I had visited in South America, we had completely fallen in love with the country and its people. Brazil and Colombia, remarkably similar in so many ways, that it is no coincidence they became my two favorite countries on this continent or that the Colombian who went with me to Brazil immediately fell in love with it or vice versa for the Brazilian I ended up here with. And since I am now here, I’m starting to appreciate and pick out the pieces of Cartagena that I do like…
Cartagena de Indias… surrounded by sea and protected by old Spanish walls, this is where the Spanish brought in the slaves they transferred from Africa, where all the gold, stolen from the natives, departed for Europe. Though long since expelled, the Spanish fortifications remain, now shielding the merrily painted colonial buildings and picturesque balconies only from the wind.
The streets are narrow, crowded with the hodge-podge of traffic from horse drawn carriages, taxis, and pedestrians. What you can capture is never the whole piece, just fragments… puzzle pieces containing church spires, clock towers, wooden balconies, and shingled roofs.
Occasionally you can pierce through the constant bustle and actually find quiet moments… where it seems like no one is around and no one is watching.
These are the moments I like best. Not just here, but everywhere I travel. Carrying a camera around makes you conspicuous, but sometimes I can hide here for however brief a moment to see the little boy flying his kite or the girls feeding pigeons before I’m discovered… and the moment is lost in a flutter of wings.
And I have to move onto a new subject… who again almost immediately spies me looking down on him. But this in itself creates something entirely different and wonderful.
A lot of times when I look around most of the people seem totally over it. Everyone is sitting at their station, waiting to sell something to the same people over and over and over again. I’m starting to like that too; people sleeping on the streets while attending their fruit stands or horse carriages, all the guys with their bellies exposed to cope with the unbearably humid heat.
But this is just one of the aesthetics of Cartagena… tiny glimpses and brief moments to reflect on while taking a taxi — all mysteriously priced at 6000 COP no matter where we go — back to the marina. I start to think that maybe, just maybe, Cartagena is growing on me.