Briefly, Cartegena was occupied by various indigenous people dating back 4000 years. The Spanish founded it as Cartagena in 1533. It became the Caribbean destination for royalty and viceroys so was the most heavily defended of the port cities. The Spanish were committed at all costs to keeping it and invested the equivalent of $2 trillion over the years to its defense (wiki)

The major pirates/privateers all took a shot at it except our hero, Henry Morgan. Henry had suffered a freak explosion on his flagship, the Oxford, and decided to loot Maracaibo instead, which of course was a breeze. Why he didn’t return to Cartagena my brief reserach doesn’t say. However this stall in his adventures is considered the only blip in his otherwise perfect record as a buccaneer.

In 1672, a prior era, the privateer Francis Drake successfully took Cartagena, but instead of doing the traditional loot-and-burn-the-damn-thing-down that Henry came to like, because he wasn’t fond of the Spanish, Drake ransomed it back to them for the equivalent of $300 million (A privateer was a pirate empowered by the British government, or a representative of the government such as the Governor of Jamaica, to raid and attack the Spanish for fun and profit on England’s behalf on a go-for-it basis)

I’ve visited a few Spanish colonial port cities and Old Cartagena has been the one most tourist-driven so far. It is almost entirely expensive tourist shops and restaurants and the streets are full of hawkers. I’d been warned that you can’t walk a block in the town, or 50 feet on the beach, without being hustled hard and persistently. This is true. Not only that but imo, despite being labelled the jewel of the Caribbean, I thought it didn’t hold a candle to Campeche for overall glory.

Old Cartagena is surrounded by low fortifications

The streets are quite narrow. The buildings are constructed of both stone and wood, unlike Campeche, for example. There’s less of an unspoken color management code

The central square is heavily treed and has an impressive Bolivar statue (more on this, briefly, another time)

Some of the streets are beautifully modest

The main church, alongside the classic yellow which looks so perfect alongside stone

Within the old town there’s an occasional nod to military history, but not so much

I gave the town most of a day but there were surprising few good museums that I could find and I asked around. But the most obvious was the right on the parque, the Inquisition Palace.P1090489

The inner courtyard

It’s a good exhibition. The various stages the Spanish walked their victims through are well laid out in a linear fashion. A holding pen

First, the 25 questions all potential witches etc were asked. If you weren’t a witch or warlock, this must have been a pretty tough question to answer: what words do you pronounce when you fly?

The real test of whether you were a witch or warlock was your weight. They calculated what you should weigh theoretically and put you on a scale. If you didn’t match the number they calculated, you were guilty. Out of focus but the only one I have

Then I guess you were guilty depending in whether it was a busy or slow day and things got really nasty


It went on, and on

Oh boy.

Cartagena has beaches. Like this

The main city is unremarkable, like this

Enough of Cartagena.


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