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Colombia part 1: A trip to Cartagena, Fortified Colonial City

by Rochelle Ballard February 02, 2012

COLOMBIA more than a holiday

Aura Boulton, from Venezuela, a surfer, environmentalist, lover of life, and passionate for change in our quick and easy fast pace way of living. Her mother Aurita Siso, now living in Colombia in a small but beautiful apartment overlooking the harbor in Cartagena. Aura spent the Christmas and New Year holiday’s at her mom’s with her sister Claudia and nephew Alex. She asked me to come and visit in the new year and see what is was like in Colombia. I had never been or even ever thought of going. I only new of a little short history and some good coffee of the place, and other sorts of things better not to mention.

Always wanting more surf adventure, yet the cultural depth interest a little more flavor in my life of culture, history, and good family experience. I was on a plane a couple weeks later and being taxied to the town center where we stayed for the first night. Entering into the city along the ocean was an old fortified wall. Couples were sitting within the window’s of it looking out at the sun setting. The town was lively and very much so in new year’s celebration. We stayed up in a room directly across from the old clock tower, above the full moon rising, below, african drum dancing. I was so excited to be in the presence of a new experience.

Walking through the old city at night, eyes wide open with all of the different architecture, colors, music, dancing, the smell of fried plantain, fish and herbs sauteing, laughter, and off in a short distance behind me the sound of clicking, clocking. I turned around to see a horse n’ carriage a few feet behind me ready to run right through me with a quick step to the side curb. On the curbside a big hole in the side walk with rusted iron running across the cracked pavement. No one can sue the city for curb tripping here. Watch your step, look for horse and carriage, enjoy the old and the new, dance and be merry.

Entering into Aurita’s home we were greeted with a finely set table of delicious food and a beautiful family awaiting our arrival. A view of the harbor and city center across the bay, and as all of Latin America, maids to serve us. Over the next few days the stories I was introduced to within the history of Colombia through to Venezuela and the interweaving significance of Aurita’s family genealogy, deepened my appreciation for all that my eyes and senses experienced from the first moment I stepped into the town center. I was having more than just a holiday, it was lesson in history, from a hedonist perspective with great appreciation for the finer things, the details, the hardships, as well as the impermanence of life and the people we share them with.

-Rochelle

Aura provided me with the following pieces of history:

  • Imagine being an ambitious spanish conquistador and finding a continent in which all the natives were covered in gold and jewels from head to toes.
  • Back in the time of the Spanish conquest, all the gold and riches the spaniards would take from the Indigenous people in the South American lands, were first kept in the fortified city of Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia. Protected by forts and canyons, this city was Spain’s “safe”, and from there, all the precious stones, gold and riches, were then shipped to the old continent to be given to the spanish crown.
  • It is said that this is when the legend of “El Dorado” came to be…. A city filled with treasures and gold, wanted to be found by many.
  • The French and the English fleet tried to enter the city of Cartagena in an effort to take all this from Spain, and the many true stories of Pirates still to this day remain alive as you see some of the old ships still floating in the city’s harbor. A city where slaves were bought and sold, and  much of the afro caribbean culture can be heard in the beating of the drums, dancing and music all around the city and its surrounding islands. A city were all of what this era was still lingers in our senses and in the air.
  • In the city’s gold museum, some reminiscent pieces of the Zenu tribe jewelry can be found. The Zenu’s were adorned in gold, as well as workers of the land in many sustainable manners. They created irrigation systems with the natural flooding of rivers, and to this day, no system has yet been able to be applied in the same efficient manner as in those times.
  • Another great interesting piece of history that can be visited in Cartagena, is Palace of the Inquisition. Here, the Catholic church would hold trails on citizens suspected for practicing witch craft, homosexuality, or just plain opposition to the church. If they were found to be guilty, they would be tortured, locked away and even killed or burned alive.
  • This Palace is now the museum were all the torture artifacts can be revisited. Among them we found guillotines, stages with a nuse for hanging people, human fire pits, among others. It is an eire place, were the energy is heavy and all that once happened there can still be felt. Recently, the pope apologized to the human race for what the church did to many people during this time.

Through some video clips and moments captured in photos Aura and I will take you through a colorful, experience of our short journey in a long history of an abundant land.

Here is part one of three … a picture says more than a thousand words, just as people surfing on the net skip a beat and pass through faster than a wave takes to generate onto the reef and break.





Rochelle Ballard
Rochelle Ballard

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