Cartagena de Indias is without doubt one of the most beautiful bays in America. Surrounded by islands, swamps and lagoons it was the seat of the indigenous Kalamari village. Don Pedro de Heredia founded the city on the 1st of June 1533 and thanks to its strategic placing it rapidly became the point of entry for the interior of the country, it soon became a prosperous city with beautiful streets, houses and cloisters.
The fame of this prosperous city turned it into the plunder site for pirates and thieves; the legions for the country’s defence soon became insufficient, which is why the kings of Spain decided to approve the construction of castles, forts, and walls that surrounded the city.
This construction took 208 years, and ended with some eleven kilometres of walls surrounding the city, the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, constructed to repel land attacks, equipped with sentry boxes, buildings for food and weapons storage, underground tunnels that could be up to 25 metres deep, and as strong as the San Sebastian de Pastelillo, the San Angel battery in Tierra Bomba, el Fuerte de San Fernando and the San Jose battery in Bocachica are must see for all tourists.
The most notable religious architectural sites are the Cathedral, the church and the cloister of San Pedro Claver, the Santo Domingo church and the Popa monastery, built at the beginning of the 17th century situated at the top of a little hill. Other interesting sites include the InquisitionPalace, the ColonialMuseum and the Historic Archive of Cartagena de Indias, the Plaza de las Bóvedas and the GoldMuseum, amongst others.
For more than 250 years, Cartagena was part of the Spanish Crown, on 11 November 1811, Cartagena declared its independence, and began another chapter in its history that has been anything but easy. Its title ‘The Heroic City’ is well earned and reflects the life of the city.
Throughout its 471-year history Cartagena has experienced periods of prosperity and hardship, every street, every house, every church has a different story that should be heard. Each and every one of the historic places of our city, explained by authorised guides, tell incredible stories, which enable tourists to get to know the source of our history.
CARTAGENA DE INDIAS permanently enjoys a warm climate, and a pleasant breeze. Its temperature reaches 29º from November until April, the sun shines and cloudy days are rarely seen. In December the trade winds blow. Rain is more frequent during the rest of the year, and the humidity makes the temperature get a little higher than the current average.
Music: In Cartagena there are a variety of rhythms:
Champeta: A contemporary rhythm,it was born 26 years ago in the city of Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) with great influence of San Basilio Palenque and through festivals of Caribbean Music during the 80’s that were done in Cartagena. It expanded nationally and internationally to the point to influence other similar styles like Reggaeton, Raggammuffin, and others. Therapy style was born as an adaptation of African rhythms (soukous, highlife, mbquanga, juju) with Antilles vibration (rap-raggareggae, Haitian compass, zouk, soca and calypso) and influences of music from the aborigines and Afro-Colombian (bullerengue mapale, zambapalo and small boat). This rhythms fusion gave birth to a new urban musical culture in the Caribbean context, which was consolidated in the slums of Cartagena in the mid-eighties. During the 90s, it suffered a series of changes both in lyrics and in its music itself, encompass with digital changes, plates (includes notes without rhythm) and it is being loved or rejected by upper class people which led to a rhythm quite different from the origins that was inspired by.
At the beginning, it spread through the powerful sound devices denominated PICOS (pick-up) that sound in the street meetings (verbenas). It is characterized by rhythmic base outweighs the melodic and harmonic lines, making it a dance music. For this dance expression of strength and elasticity are overflowed. The instruments used to play this kind of music are the voice, drums, electric guitars, bass, congas and synth, which adds rhythmic effects.
This music style has as its unique elements, a temporary division of three accelerations, the original music, the choir and a third element called the despeluque, which is characterize by strong, repetitive rhythms usually accompanied by plates (digital effects).
With a popular language and inventive the champeteros sing their own experiences. The lyrics play over African tracks or original music, show the rebellious attitude of the sectors afrocartageneros, who reject the social and economic exclusion or the lyrics are about l their dreams or the wish to change and progress.
Cumbia: it comes from the upper valley of the Magdalena River (Colombia), a geographical area called Mompox Depression, and more precisely, in the area of Pocabuy Indian country (including the cultures of the plains and the Sinu). It was formed by the current towns of El Banco, Guamal, Menchiquejo and San Sebastian in the Magdalena and Tamalameque Chiriguaná in Cesar and Mompox, Chilloa, Chimí and Guataca in Bolivar; as it is refer in the testimony of Colombian historians as Orlando Fals Borda In his book Mompox y Loba, from the series Double History of the Coast, Volume I, and Gnecco Rangel Pava in his books The Pocabuy Country and Guamalenses winds..
According to the composer Jose Barros, who is one of the most illustrious exponents of Cumbia, “La Cumbia was born in Colombia in the Pocabuy country wich includes El Banco, Chiriguaná, Mompox, Tamalameque, Chilloa, Guamal, Chimí, Guataca.
Pocabuy was an Indian country settle along the Tucurinca river (now Magdalena). Don Tomás de Carrasquilla said," the drums and pipes go on and on, follow the Colombian bagpipe, continue to “el bombo”.... next comes the 'perillero', then 'bagpipes' and other less complicated dances in short, those are the Cumbia parents”.
The Africans, who came as slaves to these regions, used to tell their story about their ethnic groups and those famous facts worth keeping in mind. They used to do so by songs named "areitos", which means dance while, singing. They danced putting the candles in their hands above their head they spread the news as delivering the mail. It was like the historical lesson that, after being heard and repeated many times, stayed in the memory of all listeners. The center of the circle was for those who gave the lesson standing and with more expertise handling the guacharacas, millos, drums and maracas to tune up the singing that has passes through the time from gloom to cheerfulness.
Mapalé: Emblematic dance along the Caribbean coast line with a strong African legacy. It was introduced in earlier times, along the banks of the MagdalenaRiver by fishermen of all fish around called mapale. It was originally a dance of work performed at night and enlivened with touches of drums and quitambre and yamoró, clap and singing. The current choreography maintains traces of its African excess show, both in the locker room, which is extremely simple, as in the presence of the machete, working tool used for fish processing.
Mapalé is a loose dance partner. You dance with short steps, fast pace and constant clapping of the dancers. It begins with two individual rows facing each other, by men and women to start moving forward and backward. Continue with free displays and positions of individual men in order to please their partners, who take turns to match. The movements are frenetic, with a high content of eroticism. The women are somewhat different and stand out as more exciting and erotic.
Bullerengue: This dance is performed only by women. It is perhaps one of the dances in which African is strong. This is evidenced in the drums, the clapping and choral singing that accompanies their attire. Apparently it emerged as a cultural reaction within the ceremonial context of the Maroon communities, probably in the Palenque de San Basilio. It's a dance ritual that takes place in particular where the young reach puberty. The bullerengue symbolizes female fertility, although it is possible that in colonial times have also had funerary connotations.
Its range is very wide. Possibly left of Palenque de San Basilio and then expanded to other towns along the Caribbean coast where the Afro-Colombian population is very high. In these places, the clapping of hands was replaced by the clash of wooden planks and the theme was varied with love content. The dancing spread as a street dance, performed by a couple (men and women). We have very little information about when the dances of African origin stopped ritual expressions and became secular dances.