January 29, 2011 § 1 Comment
Here’s a few recent videos from ProExport Colombia.
January 28, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Via Marcela’s Colombia Travel Blog, I heard about an article positively speaking of Cartagena and upon a search, I couldn’t locate a direct link, but I did find a PDF, which I’ll both upload (in case it disappears) and link to. What follows are the first three paragraphs…
“When I was 10, I worshipped Sir Francis Drake: buccaneer, explorer, scourge of the Spanish Armada — a man who could dance the pavane in a ruff and a codpiece without blushing. He seemed to have it all.
In the taxi in Cartagena, on the way to The Greatest Spanish Fortress in the New World, I made the mistake of mentioning Sir Francis to the driver. We almost drove into a ditch. According to Pedro, El Draque was a man of dubious parentage whose true calling was something in the septic-tank line.
“I will show you a hero,” Pedro said. “I will show you Blas de Lezo. Drake wasn’t worthy to be his cabin boy.” The fortress, the 17th-century Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, was the pride of the Spanish Main. It was said to be impregnable. It sits above the old walled city of Cartagena like a turtle shell, its slopes offering little to the cannon sights of approaching ships. Pedro was breathless about the cost — 254 tons of gold he kept repeating, swivelling in his seat to check that I was taking this in, as two children skipped out of danger a few yards ahead of us.” – Sunday Times (by Stanley Stewart)
March 18, 2010 § 2 Comments
Recently, I wrote about the Palenque near Cartagena and while I wanted to include Champeta music in that post, I decided it would be best to split them up so that any one post won’t seem overwhelming to the reader.
“Forty years ago, sailors coming from Africa arrived in the Colombian Caribbean city Cartagena, bringing with them albums like the music of Prince Nico Mbarga (Cameroon-Nigeria), the Oriental Brothers (Nigeria), Tabu Ley Rochereau & Mbilia Bell from Congo, and a long list of the “Highlife Master Messagers”. Thanks to these anonymous travelers, and to the vitality of my AfroColombian brothers who have made African music the rhythm of their hearts, in less than 10 years Colombia has become the “Soukouss Republic of America”. Today, these African stars provide major inspiration for thousands of youth who dream of forming their own groups to play Soukous, Highlife & Afro-beat in the streets of Colombia. The irrefutable fathers of this music are the black maroons from the San Basilio village of Palenque, near Cartagena. Viviano Torres with his group Anne Swing, Justo Valdes & Son Palenque, the group Kussima with Hernan Hernandez without them, this musical movement would not exist today.” – Maroon Culture
The word “Champeta” was first used as a cultural identifier in the 1920s, it was used to identify a dance in the 1970s and a musical genre in the 1980s.
Since before the 1920s the inhabitants of the neighborhoods farthest from the center of Cartagena, those of the poorest social strata and of African descent have been called ‘champetudo’. The economic elite used this designation as an attempt to devalue this vibrant culture. The name, ambiguously accepted and transformed, originates from the relationship of these people, with the knife called “champeta”, as it was associated with vulgarity, poverty and blackness. This culture has a past historically marked with slavery and mistreatment with its center in the oldest districts of the Isla Caimán, currently called Olaya, and the Pozón district.
At the beginning of the 1970s the Champeta culture became more visible at a national level in Colombia through a series of diverse and complex dances set to the rhythms of Caribbean music. This music was principally a mix of genres such as salsa and jíbaro but later included reggae. This music was played over large loudspeakers, popularly called “picós”, that were invented during the 1960s in Cartegena. Equipped with these sound systems they held dancce competitions and other events. Those dances were called “therapy” because of their ability help people to relax and free themselves from the economic problems of the country.
In the 1980s “creole therapy” became a new genre of music, sung and interpreted by people from Cartegena and San Basillo, later joined by people from Barranquilla, Santa Marta and the rest of the country. Baranquilla played an important role in the commercialization of this genre of music. Subsequently, the music became popular in picós. Soon, it was known as “creole therapy”, “Colombian therapy” and finally, Champeta.
March 8, 2010 § 1 Comment
Back in August of last year, I wrote about an article I had read on a Colombian Palenque near Cartagena, but the link is now defunct. Here’s what I wrote along with a part of the article plus a 1992 documentary, which is why I’m reposting it.
There was an interesting story over at Colombia Journal (now nonexistent) on what has been deemed the first free black community of the Americas living along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Here’s the intro…
“Four hundred years ago, Afro-Colombians living along Colombia’s Caribbean coast would cry when a child was born because the youth was destined to suffer a life of slavery under Spanish colonial rule. And when an Afro-Colombian died, people would engage in a nine-day and nine-night wake to celebrate the deceased’s return to Africa. Back then it appeared that death was the only path to liberation. But today, parents in the remote village of San Basilio de Palenque no longer cry when their children are born thanks to the bravery and resilience of their ancestors, who successfully gained freedom from the Spanish crown in 1603.”
“1992 documentary on the Caribbean Colombian Maroon Community of San Basilio Palenque located near Cartagena in the department of Bolivar. The focus is on present day descendants of African maroons who resisted against the Spaniards and claimed their liberty early during the colonial era with the escape of slavery and establishment of free communities termed palenques also known as maroon communities in English. This particular community was founded by the maroon leader Benkos Bioho, which is a hero to many Colombians of African heritage.”
October 1, 2009 § Leave a Comment
The other day, I did a post on Medellin with a few links to online guides for the aptly-named ’City of Eternal Spring’. To compliment that post, here is one on Cartagena starting with a nicely-done video guide to the ciudad vieja section of the ‘Walled City’ done by Matt of The Expeditioner (I really recommend his video section on additional cities and regions of Colombia, not to mention the articles “Colombia Calling” part 1 and part 2)
One of the best sources of info in English for Cartagena is Cartagena Info. Although the GUI could use a little bit of an update, the content is thorough and wide-ranging.
September 5, 2009 § Leave a Comment
(this is considered very crowded, by the way)
On the Atlantic Coast, between Barranquilla and Cartagena, on the border of the Atlántico and Bolívar departments, one can find a dirt road that leads off the highway. After a quick drive down the road, there lies the Totumo Volcano, also called the mud volcano. This small volcano has an elevation of over 65 feet.
On the inside, the volcano is full of mud. Just a few years back, it was discovered the mud inside contains sulfates, phosphates and magnesium and that the mud aside from being refreshing, has curatative properties that apparently cure acne, ulcers, rumatism, arthritis, etc. Small groups of tourists arrive daily to enjoy the natural phenomenom and to benefit from its curatative properties.
Due to the density of the mud, bathers don’t run the risk of sinking. Afterwards, the tourists are led down the volcano and down the little hill to bath in the natural resevoir. Around the volcano, there are a small number of families that derive their living from attending to these tourists both inside the volcano and in the small restaurant on site.
Geographically, the volcano finds itself within the Bolívar department and also culturally and economically, the local population that is more connected to said tourism comes from Bolívar too. From either major city, one can find daily excursions going to and from the volcano.
For lots of video clips of the place, click here.
I went there with several friends and only 2 accompanied me in the volcano even with the cost of being attended only reaching US$2.50. Technically the volcano bath is free (if I recall correctly) but the families that live there will try and try again to be of some assistance to you in order to receive a small tip at the end. Whether they should or not, you are charged yet you don’t pay the guy at the bottom with pesos, you first have to buy a ticket from just across the way. This sort of thing happens in Brazil too, completely pointless steps in a process which itself is pointless.
Once you reach the top, you slide in from the little ladder they put to help you enter. From there, a man or woman (most likely a man) will help you lie back and get fully submersed before pretty much immediately starting to give you a massage, whether you ask for it or not. Of course, you can just keep saying no and eventually they’ll get the picture. When you finish, some older women take you down to the reservoir, tell you to get in far enough and then order you to take off your swimsuit so they can wash it. After they finish, you put your swimsuit back on and when you are ready to leave, just give someone who helped you a small tip and off you go! All in all, its a unique experience and worth the measely $5.00.
As a tip, if you happen to be in the reservoir and its foggy and the birds are flying low over the lake, patches of grass are sticking out in the distance and the rain starts to come down all around you, stay for awhile, enjoy the moment.
February 26, 2009 § Leave a Comment
You know, I have spent a few weeks roaming the streets of Cartagena and all the while keeping an eye out for good places to eat, yet barring the expensive restaurants, I only came across one place with decent prices and really great food (el Bistro, which I will write about later). All other eateries were different variations of that (ex, low prices for bad food or high prices for simply good food). According to this article, I may have missed a few key spots!
“GREAT food cities tend to have a few things in common — a history steeped in culinary arts, a bounty of exceptional ingredients and a handful of cocky young chefs at the helm. A history of cocaine trade, drug violence and rotting neighborhoods don’t usually make the list.
But recently, the Colombian port town of Cartagena has become an unlikely food destination, attracting the kind of culinary travelers who spend their vacations in Rome and Paris. And what they find is a city far more exotic, but no less adroit at catering to sophisticated palates — 200-year-old Spanish colonial mansions refurbished with crisp interiors, trendy bistros that elevate plantains to haute fare, and theatrical rooms buzzing with dignitaries in starched collars and Windsor knots sipping minty rum drinks.
“Colombian food has been hiding,” said Felipe Arboleda, the boyish, perpetually smiling former chef at Palma, one of the city’s white-hot restaurants. “Colombians hide their identities when they travel because people think we’re all drug dealers. People ask if I have a cocaine plantation or if I am related to Pablo Escobar. So our cuisine hasn’t left the country.”
The rest of the story is here at NYT. For the photos (like the one above) which accompany the story, go here. If you wish to know more about Cartagena’s cuisine and restaurants, the NYT article has inspired others…
December 24, 2008 § Leave a Comment
India Catalina (c. 1495 – c. 1529), was an indigenous woman (almost certainly Calamari, and Calamari also being the indigenous name of Cartagena, meaning crab) from the Colombian Atlantic coast, who accompanied Pedro de Heredia and played a role in the Spanish conquest of Colombia, acting as interpreter and intermediary. In Colombia today, India Catalina remains as an icon of the extermination of the Pre-columbian inhabitants. Her life has plenty of similarities with the Mexican La Malinche.
Catalina was abducted in 1509 by Spanish conqueror Diego de Nicuesa in an indigenous settlement known as Zamba o Galerazamba, where she was the daughter of the local chief. She was sent to Santo Domingo, where she learned the Spanish language and adopted the Catholic religion. As a requirement of Pedro de Heredia, she served as an interpreter to the Native Americans and after that she married Alonso Montañez, Pedro de Heredia’s nephew.
The events of the Spanish conquest in the area of modern Cartagena ended with the complete annihilation of the Calamari people.
The name of Catalina Indian, appeared in a letter sent for Pedro de Heredia to King Carlos V in 1533. No one could tell what her real name was because he began calling her ‘Catalina’ from 1509 when the expeditionary Diego de Nicuesa kidnapped and took her to Santo Domingo where was educated as Spanish. As of that moment she would dress Spanish dresses only but was still considered a slave.
When they returned to Cartagena twenty years after, she was not the same. She was the one who did the first contact with Corinche Indian after her arrival with Heredia, on the 14th January of 1533. She was the translator of the Heredia in the pacification of the much Indians towns as turbacos that he eliminated in combat to Juan de La Cosa many years ago.