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Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of Indies or Cartagena of West Indies, in Spanish) ( , ), is a city on the northern coast of Colombiamarker and capital of Bolívar Department. The metropolitan area has a population of 1,240,000, and the city proper 1,090,000 (2005 census). It is the fifth largest urban area in Colombia.

Today the city is a centre of economic activity in the Caribbeanmarker region and a popular tourist destination.

Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.


Precolombian era: 7000 BC - 1500 AD

The Caribbean region, particularly in the area from the Sin√ļ River delta to the Cartagena de Indias bay, appears to be the first documented human community in today's Colombia: the Puerto Hormiga Culture.

Until the Spanish colonization many cultures derived from the Karib, Malibu and Arawak language families lived along the Caribbean Colombian coast. In the late pre-Columbian era, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Martamarker, was home to the Tayrona people, closely related with the Chibcha family language.

Archaeologists estimate that around 7000 BC, the settlement of the formative Puerto Hormiga Culture, located near the limits between the departments of Bolívar and Sucremarker was established. In this area archaeologists have found the most ancient ceramic objects in the Americas, dating from around 4000 BC. The primary reason for the proliferation of primitive societies in this area is the relative mildness of climate and the abundance of wildlife which through continuous hunting allowed the inhabitants a comfortable life.

In today's villages of Maria La Bajamarker, Sincerín, El Visomarker and Mahatesmarker and Rotinet, there have also been discoveries of the remains of culturally organized societies through the excavation of maloka type buildings, which are directly related to the early Puerto Hormiga settlements.

This is how a woman from the Karib Culture may have dressed

Archaeological investigations date the decline of the Puerto Hormiga culture and its related settlements to around 3000 BC. The rise of a much more developed culture, the Mons√ļ, who lived at the end of the Dique Canal, near today's Cartagena neighborhoods Pasacaballos and Ci√©naga Honda at the northernmost part of Bar√ļ Island. The Mons√ļ culture inherited the Puerto Hormiga culture¬īs use of the art of pottery but also developed a mixed economy of agriculture and basic manufacture. the Mons√ļ people's diet was based mostly on seashells, sweet- and salt-water fish.

The development of the Sin√ļ society in today's department of Cordoba and Sucre, eclipsed these first developments around the Cartagena Bay area. Around 1500 the area was inhabited by different tribes of the Karib language family, more precisely the Mocanae sub-family. These were:

  • In the downtown island: Kalamar√≠ Tribe
  • In the Tierrabomba island: Carex Tribe
  • In the Bar√ļmarker island, then peninsula: Bahaire Tribe
  • In the eastern coast of the exterior bay: Cospique Tribe
  • In the suburban area of Turbacomarker: Yurbaco Tribe

Some subsidiary tribes of the Kalamari lived in today's neighborhood of Pie de la Popa, and other subsidiaries from the Cospique lived in the Membrillal and Pasacaballos areas. Among these, according to the first chronicles the Kalamari Tribe had preeminence.

These tribes, though physically and administratively separated, shared common architecture, such as hut structures consisting of circular rooms with tall roofs inside wooden palisades.

First sightings: 1500-1533

Since the failed foundation of Antigua del Darién in 1506 by Alonso de Ojeda, and the subsequent failed city of San Sebastian de Urabá in 1517 by Diego de Nicuesa, the southern Caribbean coast became a bit unattractive to colonizers, which preferred the more known Hispaniolamarker and Cubamarker.
Though, the Casa de Contratación gave permission to Rodrigo de Bastidas, (1460 - 1527), to again, conduct an expedition as adelantado to this areas. Bastidas, explored the coast and discovered the Magdalena Rivermarker delta in his first journey from Guajira to the south in 1527, trip that ended in the Urabá gulf, seat of the failed first settlements. De Nicuesa and De Ojeda noted the existence of a big bay on the way from Santo Domingomarker to Urabá and Panama isthmus, encouraging De Bastidas to investigate.

Colonial era: 1533-1717

Cartagena de Indias was founded on 1 June 1533 by Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, in the former seat of the indigenous Caribbeanmarker Calamarí village. The town was named after Cartagena, Spainmarker, where most of Heredia's sailors were from.

Initially, life in the city was bucolic, with fewer than 2000 inhabitants and only one church. A few months after the disaster of the invasion of Cote (see below), a fire destroyed the city and forced the creation of a Firefighting Squad, the first in the Americas.

The dramatically increasing fame and wealth of the prosperous city turned it an attractive plunder site for pirates and corsairs (French privateers, licensed by their king). Just 30 years after its founding, the city was pillaged by the French nobleman Jean-François Roberval. The city then set about strengthening its defences and surrounding itself with walled compounds and castles. Martin Cote, a Basque from Biscay, attacked years later.

Sunset over Cartagena Harbor as seen from La Popa

Many pirates intended the same on Cartagena who was more and more notorious in the thieves' guilds in Europe:

  • Sir John Hawkins (England): Tried to trick Gov. Mart√≠n de las Alas in 1568 to open (against the Spanish Law) a foreign fair in the city to sell its goods for then ravaging the port. The Governor declined and Hawkins tried to siege but failed.

  • Sir Francis Drake (England): Nephew of Hawkins, the famed pirate came with a strong fleet and quickly took the city. The Governor circa 1574 Pedro Fern√°ndez de Busto and the Archbishop fled to the neighboring town of Turbaco and from there negotiated the costly ransom for the city: 107,000 Spanish Eight Reales of the time (Around 200 mill. of today's USD), in any case, Drake destroyed 1/4 of the city, the developing Palace of the Township and the recently finished cathedral. After this disaster Spain poured millions every year to the city for its protection, beginning with Gov. Francisco de Murga's planning of the walls and forts; this practice was called "Situado". The magnitude of this subsidy is shown by comparison: between 1751 and 1810, the city received the sum of 20,912,677 Spanish reales, the equivalent of some 2 trillion dollars today.

  • Sir [[Bernard Desjean, Baron de Pointis], Jean du Casse 1697. Raid on Cartagena The city recovered quickly from the horrible takeover by Drake and kept growing. The port, by then the seat of the Inquisition in the Caribbean (with Lima's and Mexico's the only 3 seats in America), with many public buildings and servants, its importance was confirmed. Desjean's plans were far more than pillage: it was an all-out invasion. There being no male sucessor to the Spanish Habsburg throne, King Louis XIV desired that his grandson Felipe V assert the right of sucession. Cartagena de Indias could help significantly.

The political vision behind this invasion was shadowed by the governor of Saint-Domingue (today's Haiti) Jean Baptiste Ducasse who brought his soldiers just to steal, the original plan ending with pirates and thieves again destroying the city. In any case, the entry wasn't easy, because of the recently finished first stage of walls and forts which slowed the victory and made it costly. While Desjean only asked for 250,000 Spanish reales in ransom, Jean du Casse stayed a few months later and dishonored the Baron promise to respect the churches and holy places and left them with nothing. The city again, lost everything.

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The prosperous city turned it into the plunder site for pirates and thieves; the legions for the country’s defence soon became insufficient, explaining why the kings of Spain decided to approve the construction of castles, forts, and walls that surrounded the city.

During the 17th century, the Spanish Crown hired the services of prominent European military engineers to carry out the construction of the fortresses which are today one of Cartagena's clearest signs of identity. Engineering works took well over 208 years, and ended with some eleven kilometres of walls surrounding the city, including the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas,, named in honor of Spain's King Philip IV. It was built during the Governorship of Pedro Zapata de Mendoza, Marquis of Barajas, and was constructed to repel land attacks, equipped with sentry boxes, buildings for food and weapons storage, underground tunnels.

A part of the XVI and XVII Century Fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, Cartagena de Indias, now a town of Colombia

Crates and crates of these Spanish reales dwelled in Cartagena de Indias to be distributed throughout the empire.

When the defenses were finished in 1756, the city was considered impregnable. There is a legend concerning Charles III of Spain. It is said to have occurred while reviewing the Spanish defense expenditures incurred in Havana and Cartagena de Indias, and in an effort to reform the chronic spending of his predecessors. While at Madridmarker, Spainmarker, after taking a look through his spyglass, he is said to have declared in his famed ironical style, "This is outrageous! For this price those castles should be seen from here!"

Cartagena was a major trading port, specially for precious metals. Gold and silver from the mines in New Granada and Peru were loaded in Cartagena on the galleons bound for Spain via Havanamarker. Cartagena was also a slave port; Cartagena and Veracruzmarker (Mexico) were the only cities authorized to trade with black people. The first slaves arrived with Pedro de Heredia and they worked as cane cutters to open roads, in the desecration of tombs of the aboriginal population of Sin√ļ, and in the construction of buildings and fortresses. The agents of the Portuguese company Cacheu distributed human 'cargos' from Cartagena for mine exploitation in Venezuelamarker, the West Indiesmarker, the Nuevo Reino de Granada and the Viceroyalty of Per√ļ.

On 5 February 1610, the Catholic Monarchs established from Spain the Inquisition Holy Office Court in Cartagena de Indias by a Royal Decree issued by King Philip II. The Inquisition Palace, finished in 1770, is still there with its original features of colonial times. When Cartagena declared its complete independence from Spain on November 11, 1811, the inquisitors were urged to leave the city. The Inquisition operated again after the Reconquest in 1815, but it disappeared definitely when Spain surrendered six years later before the patriotic troops led by Simón Bolívar.

Viceregal era: 1717-1810

Although the eighteenth century began very badly for the city, soon the downward tendency was curbed. The pro-trade economic policies of the new dynasty in Madridmarker bolstered the economic performance of Cartagena de Indias and the establishment of the Viceroyalty of the New Granada in 1717 had the city as the greatest beneficiary of the colony.

The reconstruction after the Raid on Cartagena was initially slow, but with the ending of the War of the Spanish Succession around 1711 and the competent administration of D. Juan Diaz de Torrezar Pimienta the walls were rebuilt, the forts reorganized and restored and the public services and buildings reopened. By 1710, the city was fully recovered. At the same time, the slow but steady reforms of the restricted trade policies in the Spanish Empire encouraged the establishment of new trade houses and private projects. During the reign of Philip V of Spain the city had many new public works starting or ending like the new fort of San Fernando, the Hospital of the Obra Pía and the full paving of all the streets and the opening of new roads.

Admiral Edward Vernon failed expedition to conquer Cartagena de Indias in 1741

In March 1741 the city endured a large-scale attack by British and American colonial troops led by admiral Edward Vernon, (1684 - 1757), who arrived at Cartagena with a massive fleet of 186 ships and 23,600 men, including 12,000 infantry, against only 6 Spanish ships and less than 6,000 men, in an action known as the Battle of Cartagena de Indias. The siege was broken off due to the start of the tropical rainy season, after weeks of intense fighting in which the British landing party was successfully repelled by the Spanish and native forces led by commander General Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta, (1689 - aftermaths of the Cartagena battle, 1741), a Basque from the Gipuzkoamarker lands , (Spain).

Heavy British casualties were compounded by diseases such as yellow fever. This victory prolonged Spain's control of the Caribbean waters, which helped secure its large Empire until the 19th century. Admiral Vernon was accompanied by American Colonial troops, including George Washington brother, Lawrence Washington , who was so impressed with Vernon he named his Mount Vernonmarker agriculturasl estate after him.

Bogota and Cartagena, the Athenas of America

After Vernon began what is called the 'Silver Age' of the city (1750-1808). This time was of permanent expansion of the existing buildings, massive inmigration from all the other cities of the Viceroyalty, the increase of the economic and political power of the city and a population spur that hasn't been seen yet again. For these events, the political power that was already shifting from Bogotámarker to the coast, definitely did and the Viceroys decided to reside in the city for good. The inhabitants of the city were the richest of the colony, the aristocracy formed noble houses with their land estates, libraries and prints were opened, and even the first café in New Granada was established. These good times of steady progress and advance of the second half of the eighteenth century came into an abrupt end in 1808, with the general crisis of the Spanish Empire, embodied in the Mutiny of Aranjuez, with all its consequences.

For more than 275 years, Cartagena was part of the Spanish Crown. On November 11, 1811, Cartagena declared its independence.

Peninsular War, revolution, crisis, independence and the nineteenth century: 1810-1900

If there is a word to describe the Cartagena in the nineteenth century, is by far: decadence. Followed by instability, revolution, impoverishment and depopulation. The chaos brought by the Mutiny of Aranjuez to the Empire and the French invasion of the peninsula put the stability of the Spanish ancient regime in shambles. Although there were two years of grace for the city to prepare itself for what was coming



Cartagena faces the Caribbean Sea to the west. To the south is the Cartagena Bay, which has two entrances: Bocachica (Small Mouth) in the south, and Bocagrande (Big Mouth) in the north. Cartagena is located at 10¬į25' North, 75¬į32' West (10.41667, -75.5333). 1


Cartagena de Indias averages around 90% humidity, with rainy seasons typically in April-May and October-November.
Graph of 1951 - 2008 air average temperaturas
The climate tends to be hot and windy. The months of November to February tend to be more windy months, giving an extra cooling to the otherwise high tropical temperatures.

Cartagena de Indias, is rarely touched by the hurricanes that decimate other Caribbean capitals like Havanamarker, Santo Domingomarker, Kingstonmarker or San Juanmarker. Although the city is in the Caribbean, the mainland is quite far south, isolating it from the wind currents that feed the hurricanes. The last hurricane to arrive the city was the strange arrival Hurricane Santa in 1988, and was debilitated after passing Phillipinesmarker.


The City began with only 200 people in 1533 and during the 16th century showed incredible growth, boosted principally for the gold tombs of the Sin√ļ Culture.

After those tombs were fully ravaged, the population began to scatter to the countryside and decided to establish as farmers, thus the total numbers of the city decreased.

Though the silver age of the city was to come, trade began to boom in the city and never stopped during the 1600s . The city reached its peak of steady growth in 1698 before the arrival of the Baron de Pointis.

The census made by the Mayor's office in 1712 reflects the damage made by Jean Baptiste Ducasse and his brigands: an important part of the population of the city emigrated.

Year Total

1939 87,504
1952 123,439
1967 299,493
1976 312,520
1985 442,323
1993 654,302
1999 993,302
2005 1,012,234
2006 1,090,349
2011 1,230,443 Projected
2021 2,029,212 Projected
2033 2,849,202 Projected
Year Total

1811 29,320
1821 5,392
1832 8,001
1842 4,221
1853 6,403
1867 8,320
1870 7,680
1882 13,994
1890 17,392
1900 21,220
1912 29,922
1918 34,203
1926 64,322
Year Total

1533 200
1564 2,400
1593 3,543
1612 5,302
1634 8,390
1643 12,302
1698 14,223
1701 10,230
1732 12,932
1762 14,203
1778 16,940
1792 19,380
1803 23,402

The eighteenth century though, with the Bourbon dynasty and its pro-trade policies benefited the city and made it prosper again. During this period of time, the city passed the psychological barrier of 18.000 inhabitants, which was at the time the population cap of the Viceroyalty of New Granada.

Between the Censuses of the eighteenth century , the Census of 1778, was made by the governor at that time, D. Juan de Torrezar Diaz Pimienta - later Viceroy of New Granada-, by order from the Marquis of Ensenada, Minister of Finance in order to present his proyect of the Catastro tax, a universal property tax that he believed to be the way to liberate the economy while increasing dramatically the Royal revenues.

Though the census was made in the most important cities of the Spanish Empire, enemies of Ensenada in the court made bad publicity of the plan with the King Charles III also busy with the ongoing war with Britain. This census of 1778, besides its economical history importance, its also interesting because in order to quantify the import of the hypothetical tax, the house had to be described thoroughly, with its occupants, making this census an important tool for restoration architects in Cartagena de Indias's city centre still used today. The original of the census is preserved in the Museum of History of the city while a copy rests in the Archivo de Indiasmarker in Sevillemarker.

This condition of biggest city of the Viceroyalty standed until 1811, when the Peninsular War then converted in Wars of Independence and the Pi√Īeres's Revolts, marked the beginning of a dramatic decline of the virtual capital of New Granada in all areas.

In 1815 the city was almost destroyed. No census information exists of this time, only accounts of how the city literally was a ghost town. Only around 500 impoverished freed slaves dwelled the city whose palaces and public buildings turned into ruins and many walls collapsed.

Recuperation, but slow, began after, but stopped with the general economic and political instability of the country at that time. Also, an isolationist economic policy from the andean elites doomed to poverty the export potential areas.

Several famines and outbursts of cholera in the mid-1800s like in the rest of the world, decimated the city and also threatened it, again, to disappear.

Since the 1880s the city began to recover from its crisis, and continued a bit slower after the 1929 crash but still vigorous. There was an entrance of Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Chinese and other imnmigrant communities in this period of time.

Between 1930 and 1970 the city showed great population growth at rates higher than the national average and higher than the Bogota town, which boomed predominantly because of internal displacement and the hope of work opportunities in the verge of increasing centralization. By 1970, the population spur stopped.

But stopped to increase even faster. The population growth has been dramatic since the 1980s with a mixture of the privatization of the port infrastructure, the decentralization of tourism funds and also the sad fact that proportionally to its population it's the city that has received the most displaced people from the countryside with the escalation of the civil war in the 1990s in the Andean regions and looking for safety in the Caribbean capital.

Today the city shows a continuing tendency of the population enlargement that began in the mid-80s. Birth rate and relatively normal death rates feed the ongoing economic expansion.


Administrative divisions

The Metropolitan area of Cartagena is formed by:

Northern area

In this area is the Rafael N√ļ√Īez International Airportmarker, located in the neighborhood of Crespo, only ten minutes drive from downtown or the old part of the city and fifteen minutes away from the modern area. Zona Norte, the area located immediately north the airport, is widely recognized as the district with the greatest prospective long-term urban development. It current contains the majestic Hotel Las Americas, the urban development Barcelona de Indias, and several educational institutions.

Colonial architecture in the old town
The Castillo de San felipe de Barajas
Walls and canons of the old city


The Downtown area of Cartagena has a varied architecture, mainly of a colonial style, but there are also republican and Italian style buildings, such as the Cathedral's bell tower.

The official entrance to downtown is through Puerta del Reloj (Clock Gate), which comes out onto Plaza de los Coches (Square of the Carriages). A few steps from there there is the Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square), next to the mayor's office. Nearby is San Pedro Claver Square, and his namesake's church, as well as the Museum of Modern Art.

Nearby is the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolívar's Square) and the Palace of the Inquisition to one side. Nearby is the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolívar's Square) and the Palace of the Inquisition to one side. Plaza de Bolivar (formerly known as Plaza de Inquisicion) is more like a small park with a statue of Simon Bolivar in the center. This plaza is surrounded by some of the city's most elegant, balconied colonial buildings. Under shady terraces outdoor cafes line the street.Not too far is the office of Historical Archives which holds Cartagena's history. Next to the archives is the Government Palace, the office building of the Governor of the Department of Bolivar. Across from the palace is the Cathedral of Cartagena which dates back to the 16th century.

There is another religious temple that you should take time to admire: The restored Santo Domingo Church, in front of Plaza Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Square). The square was decorated with the sculpture Mujer Reclinada ("Reclining Woman"), a gift from the renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

A little bit further on is Augustinian Fathers Convent is the University of Cartagena. This university is a higher education center, opened to the public in the late 19th century. The Claustro de Santa Teresa (Saint Theresa Cloister), which has been remodeled into a hotel, operated by Charleston Hotels became an upscale Colombian hotel chain. It has its own square, protected by the San Francisco Bastion.

A twenty minute walk from the downtown is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. This is the greatest fortress ever to be built by the Spaniards in their colonies. The original fort was constructed between 1639 and 1657 on top of the San Lazaro hill. In 1762 and extensive enlargement was undertaken and the result is the current powerful bastion. Numerous attempts were taken to storm the fort, though it was never overtaken. An extensive system of tunnels are connected underground to distribute provisions and facilitate evacuation. The tunnels were all constructed in such as way as to make it possible to hear the footsteps of an approaching enemy's feet. Some of the tunnels are open today and available to view with or without a guide.

San Diego

It was named after San Diego Convent, nowadays the Beaux Arts School Building. In front of it you will find Convent of the Nuns of the Order of Saint Claire, now the beautiful Hotel Santa Clara. In the surrounding area you will find Santo Toribio Church, the last church built in the Walled City, and next to it, Fernández de Madrid Square, in honor of Cartagena's hero José Fernández de Madrid, whose statue can be seen here.

Inside the Old City, you have to go to Las Bóvedas (The Vaults), a construction attached to the walls in the Santa Catalina Bastion. From the top of this construction you will be able to view the Caribbean Sea.

Getsemaní neighborhood

This is one of the most representative neighborhoods in Cartagena. African people who were brought as slaves used to live here. Parque Centenario (Centenary Park) is the most prominent place in this area; built in 1911, it commemorates a century of independence. Inside, often obscured, are found some interesting monuments, including one dedicated to the military. Parque Centenario also serves as a local police station and a mid-afternoon pulpit for aspiring evangelists. Over the years, the park has acquired, through various means, a sloth, two Gila Monsters and a few monkeys. Cartagena's Convention Center, Third Order Church and San Francisco Cloister are all located in Cartagena. Note that the entirety of the Old City has the same architectural styles as the area surrounded by The Walls.


Bocagrande, (Big Mouth), is a much sought after area with many hotels, shops, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries. It is located between Cartagena Bay to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west, to include El Laguito (The Little Lake) and Castillogrande (Big Castle), two renowned neighborhoods. Its particular appeal are the beaches and nightlife, namely around Avenida San Martín (Saint Martin Avenue), the backbone of the area.

The beaches of Bocagrande, lying along the northern shore, are muddy affairs. There are breakwaters about every two hundred yards and the desired azure of the Caribbean is lost by the almost sea level rise of the beach and the lack of proper waste disposal in the city. It takes about seven minutes worth of a boat ride out to sea to see the color that is desired of the Caribbean.

On the bay side of the peninsula of Boca Grande is a spectacular seawalk. The centre of the bay holds a statue of the Virgin Mary. Contestants of the Miss Colombia Pageant meet there to be seen during that festival.

Originally constructed for foreign oil workers, the majority of the land which makes up Bocagrande was established through land reclamation. Bocagrande is now considered the city's most popular area for tourists.

Cartagena walls

Further information

To know more about the city's government history see:

Touristic sites and attractions


Cartagena boasted "modern" urban development in recent years, with the construction of new skyscrapers. As of October 2007, there were 42 high-rises under construction, including an effort to create Colombia's tallest, the Torre de la Escollera, expected to be completed in early 2007, planned to stand at and having 58 floors. However, real development of the project, assisted by the strong Caribbean winds, led to its dismantling. A new, twenty-story building has been planned instead.


As the commercial and touristic hub of the country the city has many transportation facilities, particularly in the seaport, air, and fluvial areas.

Land transportation

The city is linked to the northern part of the Caribbean Region through roads 90 and 90A, more commonly called Central Caribbean Road. This Road passes through Barranquillamarker, Santa Martamarker and Riohachamarker ending in Paraguachón, Venezuelamarker and continues with Venezuelan numeration all the way to Caracasmarker.

To the southeast the city has more entrances:

Road 25: Going through Turbacomarker and Arjonamarker, and through the Montes de María when a fork divides it continuing to Sincelejo as National 25 and finally ending in Medellínmarker, and to the east to Valleduparmarker as number 80.

Road 25 A: Going also to Sincelejomarker, but avoiding the mountains, finally connects with 25 in the forementioned city.

Air transportation

The Rafael N√ļ√Īez International Airportmarker, is the biggest and busiest airport in the region and the second in passenger traffic in the country. The code of the airport is CTG, having flights to almost all the airports in the country and many connections to Eldorado International Airportmarker in Bogot√°marker. Excesive operational costs and easier connections and better prices had been shifting the gross international connection passengers to the nearer Tocumen International Airportmarker in Panamamarker and Queen Beatrix International Airportmarker in Arubamarker while also more companies prefer to serve the Colombian market from Cartagena de Indias, due to better geographical and atmospherical conditions.

Because of this growing general air traffic shift fIt is thought may be finished by 2020, the project favored by many in the regionrom the interior to these coastal airports, studies had been made to build a bigger new airport in the area of Barbacoas Bay in the southern city limits. This airport, if approved, could be seen as a challenge to Bogota Airport and it is plausible to think on some people pressurizing for a standstill.

Railroad transportation

The city used to have a railroad station near today's "La Matuna" neighborhood, but in the late 50s there was a general trend towards dismounting the railroad system and replace it with paved roads.In general, it looks as if Colombia lacks today a consistent railroad infrastructure.

Sea transportation

As the busiest container port in the country, and third in grain transportation, the city is well connected with the ports of the Caribbean main, and the rest of the world. The city is served with three open ports, and more than 40 private ports.

Sociedad Portuaria de Cartagena de Indias main wharves, 2008.

The open ports of the City are:

Its important to note, that the first have acquired the assets of the last to develop a new port in the external bay that intends to duplicate the container capacity of the port in general by 2011 and triplicate it in 2015.

Of the private ports of the city we can mention:

Fluvial transportation

Since the seventeenth century the bay is connected to the Magdalena Rivermarker by the Dique Canal, built by the governor Pedro Zapata de Mendoza. After Colombian independence the canal was abandonned and growing centralization left the city without resources to fund the vital artery, the last important maintenance works being made in the 50s during Laureano Gomez's administration. Some improvements were made by local authorities in the 1980s but they were insuficcient because of technical impediments from central government that said that the "maintenance" of the canal wasn't the local administration jurisdiction. From then on, maintenance of the canal was more or less delayed though it still works.

Many Caribbean and Cartagenian political leaders argue that this state of affairs may change with a return to the pre-independence funding and tax system schemes and the canal would be maintained properly and even expanded, benefiting in general the national economy.



The city has many public and private libraries:

Divided in buildings across the city being assigned to the Faculties it serves accordingly each area. The main building is in C. de la Universidad 64 and the second biggest section is located in Av. Jose Vicente Mogollón 2839.

  • The Bartolom√© Calvo Library: Founded in 1843 and established in its current place in 1900 is one of the main libraries of the Caribbean Coast and the biggest of the city. Its address is: C. de la Inquisici√≥n, 23.

  • The History Academy of Cartagena de Indias Library: Opened in 1903, many of its books date from more than a century before from donations of members and benefactors. Its entrance is more restricted due to secure handling procedure reasons as ancient books require, but it can be requested in the Academy office in Plaza de Bolivar 112.

  • The Technological University of Bol√≠var Library: Opened in 1985 Although small in general size, its sections on engineering and electronics are immense and its demand is mostly on this area, being located in Camino de Arroyohondo 1829.

  • The American Hispanic Culture Library: Opened in 1999, it already existed a smaller version without Spanish funding in the Casa de Espa√Īa since the early 1940s but in 1999 was enlarged to serve Latin America and the Caribbean in the old convent of Santo Domingo.

It specializes on Hispanic Culture and History and is a continental epicenter of seminaries on history and restoration of buildings, the restoration of the convent and the enlargement of the library was and still is a personal proyect of Juan Carlos I of Spain who visits it regularly. Its located in Plaza Santo Domingo 30, but its entrance is in C. Gastelbondo 52.

A city library.

  • Jorge Artel Library: Opened in 1997, serves the area of the southwest districts of the city, it is mostly for children. It is located in Camino del Socorro 222

  • Balbino Carreazo Library: Located in Pasacaballos, a suburban neighborhood of the southeastern part of the city, serves mostly the suburbs of Pasacaballos, Ararca, Leticia del Dique and Matunilla. It is located in Plaza de Pasacaballos 321

  • District Libraries: Although small, this system goes grassroots to neighborhoods circulating books, generally each district library has around 5000 books.

Theatres and concert halls

Performing arts have always been a big part of Cartagena's cultural life. The first carnivals and western theaters that served in New Granada operated here, more precisely on today's Calle del Coliseo. This was an activity patronized by the Viceroy Manuel de Guirior and Antonio Caballero y Góngora who like their predecessors spent most of the time of their mandate ruling in Cartagena de Indias.

  • Heredia Theatre: Opened in 1911, inspired by the Teatro Tac√≥nmarker of Havanamarker was designed by Jose Enrique Jaspe. After years of abandonment, it was reborn in the 1990s and continues to be a cultural center. It is located in Plazuela de La Merced 5.
    Teatro Heredia was opened in 1911 and restored in 1989

  • Universidad de Cartagena Aula Maxima: Although in existence since the early 1800s, it is use mainly for debates began in the late 1920s and it still has that use today.

  • The city has registered more than 100 companies of theater, traditional or contemporary dancing and its regularly visited by ballet and opera companies. Many of these local theater and traditional companies have their own auditoriums. To name some of them: Recul√° del Ovejo House, Teatro Contemporaneo Cartagenero, Ekobios and Colegio del Cuerpo.

Museums and galleries

  • City Museum Palace of the Inquisition, opened in the 1970s.

World Heritage site

The Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments of Cartagena were selected in 1984 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizationmarker (UNESCOmarker) for being located in a bay by the Caribbean Sea, having the most extensive fortifications in South America. A system of zones that divides the city into three neighborhoods: San Sebastian and Santa Catalina with the cathedral and many palaces where the wealthy lived and the main government buildings functioned; San Diego or Santo Toribio, where merchants and the middle class lived; and Getsemani, the suburban popular quarters.

In popular culture

  • Cartagena gained modern notoriety in the 1984 hit movie, Romancing the Stone when romance novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) travels to Cartagena to deliver a treasure map in an effort to ransom her kidnapped sister. The Cartagena scenes were actually filmed in Mexico, and it doesn't reflect the real Cartagena. In the Family Guy episode "Barely Legal", the mayor, thinking the film to be real, sends all the police officers to Cartagena.
  • In that movie, Michael Douglas' character refers to it as Cartage(ny)a. This has largely been adopted by tourists and is a constant thorn in the sides of locals. The "N" in Cartagena is solid. You will find only one business in the entire city that refers to this film.
  • Gabriel Garc√≠a Marquez's novel Love in the Time of Cholera although is set in an unnamed city, it is obviously Cartagena. Also in Cartagena, partially or totally are set other novels of his, like The General in his Labyrinth and Strange Pilgrims.
  • The first chapter of Brian Jacques' novel The Angel's Command takes place in 1628 Cartagena.
  • The movie Love in the Time of Cholera released on November 16, 2007 in the USA, is filmed in Cartagena.
  • La Queimada, "Burn!" with Marlon Brando was filmed in Cartagena and released in 1969.
  • The movie The Mission released in 1986 with Robert De Niro was filmed in Cartagena and Brazil. The interpreter for the director was a Colombian who had recently moved to Canada.
  • The poem ‚ÄúRom√°nc‚ÄĚ by S√°ndor K√°ny√°di is talking about the beauty of Cartagena.
  • Cartagena is referred to by Tom Cruise's character, Vincent, in a scene in the film Collateral short before he terminates the blues trumpet player.
  • Cartagena is featured as the backdrop for the NCIS episode "Agent Afloat" as NCIS Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo tracks down the murderer of a Navy Communications Officer found dead near the Banana Moon bar.
  • A fictionalized version of the raid on Cartagena is chronicled in Chapter 27 in the novel Captain Blood.
  • In the famous Colombian novela "Yo Soy Betty La Fea", the main character, Betty, travels to Cartagena for a while.
  • The second story in Nam Le's award winning book of short fictions, the Boat 2008 is called Cartagena and set in Colombia. Cartagena in the story is more idea than place.

Famous People

Nearby towns and cities

Sister cities


  1. "X Cátedra de Historia Ernesto Restrepo Tirado - "El Caribe en la Nación Colombiana" Guerra, Langbaek et al. Ed. Aguilar, Bogotá, 2007. ISBN 958-8250-31-5.
  2. Allaire, Louis (1997). "The Caribs of the Lesser Antilles". In Samuel M. Wilson, The Indigenous People of the Caribbean, pp. 180‚Äď185. Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1531-6.
  3. Biblioteca Luis √Āngel Arango
  7. Lemaitre, Eduardo; Historia Extensa de Cartagena de Indias, Ed. Aguilar 1976. Edited before the ISBN system was enforced in Colombia, no reedition.
  11. Lemaitre, Eduardo; Historia Extensa de Cartagena de Indias, Ed. Aguilar 1976.
  12. Corrales, Manuel Ezequiel; Documentos para la historia de la Provincia de Cartagena, Tomo II, Imp. M. Rivas, Cartagena de Indias, 1883.
  14. De Castellanos, Juan; Historia de Cartagena, Bogot√°, Biblioteca de Cultura Popular de Colombia, 1942.
  23. Lemaitre, Eduardo; Historia Extensa de Cartagena de Indias, Ed. Aguilar 1976
  24. "El Porvenir", Year CXVII, Issue 29.399, Page 4, column 2. Cartagena de Indias, 1999.
  28. UNESCO: Cartagena, Colombia

External links

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