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Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of the Indies or Cartagena of the West Indies, in English) (Spanish pronunciation: [kartaˈxena ðe ˈindjas], English: /ˌkɑrtəˈheɪnə deɪ ˈɪndiəs/ or hypercorrected English: /ˌkɑrtəˈheɪnjə/ as if "Cartageña"), is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department. The city had a population of 892,545 as of the 2005 census, making it the fifth-largest city in Colombia and giving the Cartagena urban area the status of fifth-largest urban area in Colombia. Cartagena is a centre of economic activity in the Caribbean, as well a popular tourist destination.

Activity and development of the Cartagena region is dated back to 4000 B.C. around Cartagena Bay by varying cultures of indigenous peoples. The Spanish colonial city was founded on June 1, 1533 and named after Cartagena, Spain. Cartagena served a key role in the development of the region during the Spanish eras; it was a center of political and economic activity due to the presence of royalty and wealthy viceroys. In 1984, Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Pre-Columbian era: 7000 BC - 1500 AD

The Puerto Hormiga Culture, found in the Caribbean coast region, particularly in the area from the Sinú River Delta to the Cartagena de Indias Bay, appears to be the first documented human community in what is now Colombia. Archaeologists estimate that around 7000 BC, the formative culture was located near the boundary between the present-day departments of Bolívar and Sucre. In this area, archaeologists have found the most ancient ceramic objects of the Americas, dating from around 4000 BC. The primary reason for the proliferation of primitive societies in this area is thought to have been the relative mildness of climate and the abundance of wildlife, which allowed the hunting inhabitants a comfortable life. In today's villages of Maria La Baja, Sincerín, El Viso, and Mahates and Rotinet, excavations have uncovered the remains of maloka-type buildings, directly related to the early Puerto Hormiga settlements.

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 Monsú, who lived at the end of the Dique Canal near today's Cartagena neighborhoods Pasacaballos and Ciénaga Honda at the northernmost part of Barú Island, has been hypothesized. The Monsú culture appears to have inherited the Puerto Hormiga culture's use of the art of pottery and also to have developed a mixed economy of agriculture and basic manufacture. The Monsú people's diet was based mostly on shellfish and fresh and salt-water fish.

The development of the Sinú society in what is today the departments of Córdoba and Sucre, eclipsed these first developments around the Cartagena Bay area. Until the Spanish colonization, many cultures derived from the Karib, Malibu and Arawak language families lived along the Colombian Caribbean coast. In the late pre-Columbian era, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was home to the Tayrona people, whose language was closely related to the Chibcha language family.

Around 1500 the area was inhabited by different tribes of the Karib language family, more precisely the Mocanae sub-family, including:
  • In the downtown island: Kalamarí Tribe
  • In the Tierrabomba island: Carex Tribe
  • In the Barú island, then peninsula: Bahaire Tribe
  • In the eastern coast of the exterior bay: Cospique Tribe
  • In the suburban area of Turbaco: 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 earliest documents available, the Kalamari had preeminence. These tribes, though physically and administratively separated, shared a common architecture, such as hut structures consisting of circular rooms with tall roofs, which were surrounded by defensive wooden palisades.

First sightings: 1500-1533

After the failed effort to found Antigua del Darién in 1506 by Alonso de Ojeda and the subsequent unsuccessful founding of San Sebastian de Urabá in 1517 by Diego de Nicuesa, the southern Caribbean coast became unattractive to colonizers. They preferred the better known Hispaniola and Cuba.

Though the Casa de Contratación gave permission to Rodrigo de Bastidas (1460–1527) to again conduct an expedition as adelantado to this area, Bastidas explored the coast and discovered the Magdalena River Delta in his first journey from Guajira to the south in 1527, a trip that ended in the Urabá Gulf, the location of the failed first settlements. De Nicuesa and De Ojeda noted the existence of a big bay on the way from Santo Domingo to Urabá and the Panama isthmus, and that encouraged Bastidas to investigate.

Colonial era: 1533-1717

Cartagena was founded on 1 June 1533 by Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, in the former location of the indigenous Caribbean Calamarí village. The town was named after Cartagena, Spain, where most of Heredia's sailors had resided.

Initially, the city had fewer than 2000 inhabitants and only one church. The dramatically increasing fame and wealth of the prosperous city turned it into an attractive plunder site for pirates and corsairs – French privateers licensed by their king. 30 years after its founding, the city was pillaged by the French nobleman Jean-François Roberval. The city set about strengthening its defences and surrounding itself with walled compounds and castles. Martin Cote, a Basque from Biscay, attacked years later. A few months after the disaster of the invasion of Cote, a fire destroyed the city and forced the creation of a firefighting squad, the first in the Americas.

Many pirates planned to attack Cartagena, which became more and more interesting to them. In 1568, Sir John Hawkins of England tried to trick Gov. Martín de las Alas to go against Spanish law and open a foreign fair in the city to sell goods, planning to ravage the port afterwards. The governor declined, and Hawkins besieged the city, but failed to reduce it.

In 1586, Sir Francis Drake, also of England, and nephew of Hawkins, came with a strong fleet and quickly took the city. The governor, Pedro Fernández de Busto, fled with the Archbishop to the neighboring town of Turbaco, and from there negotiated the costly ransom for the city: 107,000 Spanish Eight Reales of the time, or around 200 million in today's US dollars. Drake had destroyed one-quarter of the city, the developing Palace of the Township, and the recently finished cathedral.

After this disaster, Spain poured millions every year into 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. The city recovered quickly from the attack and occupation by Drake and kept growing, and continued to attract attention from its opponents.

The Raid on Cartagena in 1697 by Sir Bernard Desjean, Baron de Pointis and Jean Baptiste Ducasse was an all-out invasion that was politically motivated. Absent a male successor to the Spanish Habsburg throne, King Louis XIV wanted his grandson Felipe V to assert the right of succession, and the taking of Cartagena de Indias could help significantly. The political purpose behind the invasion was somewhat undermined by Ducasse, the governor of Saint-Domingue – today's Haiti – who brought his soldiers with a plan to steal, but ended with pirates and thieves destroying the city. Entry to the city was not easy because of the recently finished first stage of walls and forts, which slowed the invasion and made it costly. While Desjean only asked for 250,000 Spanish reales in ransom, Ducasse stayed a few months and dishonored the baron's promise to respect the churches and holy places. He left the inhabitants with nothing.

During the 17th century, the Spanish Crown paid for the services of prominent European military engineers to construct fortresses. Today these are Cartagena's most significant identitifiable features. 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. It is equipped with sentry boxes, has buildings for food and weapons storage, and contains underground tunnels connecting the fortifications.

When the defenses were finished in 1756, the city was considered impregnable. Legend has it that Charles III of Spain, while reviewing in Madrid the Spanish defense expenditures for Havana and Cartagena de Indias, looked through his spyglass and remarked, "This is outrageous! For this price those castles should be seen from here!"

Cartagena was a major trading port, especially for precious metals. Gold and silver from the mines in the New Granada and Peru were loaded in Cartagena on the galleons bound for Spain via Havana. Cartagena was also a slave port; Cartagena and Veracruz, (Mexico), were the only cities authorized to trade African slaves. The first slaves were transported by Pedro de Heredia and were used as cane cutters to open roads, as laborers to destroy the tombs of the aboriginal population of Sinú, and to construct buildings and fortresses. The agents of the Portuguese company Cacheu sold slaves from Cartagena for working in mines in Venezuela, the West Indies, the Nuevo Reino de Granada and the Viceroyalty of Perú.

On 5 February 1610, the Catholic Monarchs established the Inquisition Holy Office Court in Cartagena de Indias by a royal decree issued by King Philip II. With Lima and Peru, it was one of the three seats of the Inquisition in the Americas. The Inquisition Palace, finished in 1770, preserves its original features of colonial times. When Cartagena declared its complete independence from Spain on 11 November 1811, the inquisitors were urged to leave the city. The Inquisition operated again after the Reconquest in 1815, but it disappeared entirely when Spain surrendered six years later to the troops led by Simón Bolívar.

Viceregal era: 1717-1810

Although the 18th century began very badly for the city, soon things began to improve. The pro-trade economic policies of the new dynasty in Madrid bolstered the economics of Cartagena de Indias, and the establishment of the Viceroyalty of the New Granada in 1717 placed the city in the position of being the greatest beneficiary of the colony.

The reconstruction after the Raid on Cartagena (1697) was initially slow, but with the end of the War of the Spanish Succession around 1711 and the competent administration of Don Juan Díaz 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 projects either begun or completed, among them 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.

Failed expedition to conquer Cartagena 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 six Spanish ships and fewer 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 (1689–1741, death in aftermath of the Cartagena battle), a Basque from the Gipuzkoa lands of 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's brother, Lawrence Washington, who was so impressed with Vernon that he named his Mount Vernon estate and plantation after him.

Bogotá and Cartagena, the Athens of America

After Vernon began what is called the 'Silver Age' of the city (1750–1808). This time was one of permanent expansion of the existing buildings, massive immigration from all the other cities of the Viceroyalty, increase of the economic and political power of the city and a population growth spurt not equaled since that time. Political power that was already shifting from Bogotá to the coast completed its relocation, and the Viceroys decided to reside in Cartegena permanently. The inhabitants of the city were the richest of the colony, the aristocracy erected noble houses on their lands to form great estates, libraries and printing establishments were opened, and the first café in New Granada was even established. The good times of steady progress and advancement in the second half of the 18th century came to an abrupt end in 1808 with the general crisis of the Spanish Empire that came from the Mutiny of Aranjuez and all its consequences.

For more than 275 years, Cartagena was under Spanish rule. On November 11, 1811, Cartagena declared its independence.



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°25' North, 75°32' West (10.41667, -75.5333).


Cartagena de Indias features a tropical wet and dry climate. Cartagena de Indias averages around 90% humidity, with rainy seasons typically in April–May and October–November. 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 Havana, Santo Domingo, Kingston or San Juan. 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 at the city was Hurricane Santa, which had a strange arrival in 1988 and was debilitated after passing Panama.


The city began with only 200 people in 1533 and during the 16th century showed incredible growth. A major factor was the gold in the tombs of the Sinú Culture.

After those tombs were completely plundered, the inhabitants began to scatter to the countryside and to establish themselves as farmers, and the population of the city decreased.

Though the silver age of the city was to come, trade began to boom and that boom continued to increase in the 17th century. The city reached its growth peak in 1698 before the arrival of the Baron de Pointis.

The census made by the mayor's office in 1712 reflects damage brought on the city by Jean Baptiste Ducasse and his brigands: a major portion of the population of the city had emigrated.

The 18th century brought the Bourbon dynasty and its pro-trade policies, and these benefited the city, causing it to prosper again. During this period, the city passed the psychological barrier of 18.000 inhabitants, which was at the time the population cap of the Viceroyalty of New Granada.

Among the censuses of the 18th century was the special Census of 1778, imposed by the governor of the time, D. Juan de Torrezar Diaz Pimienta - later Viceroy of New Granada - by order of the Marquis of Ensenada, Minister of Finance - so that he would be provided numbers for his Catastro tax project, which imposed a universal property tax he believed would contribute to the economy while at the same time increasing royal revenues dramatically.

Though the census was made in the most important cities of the Spanish Empire, enemies of Ensenada in the court turned King Charles III, who was busy with ongoing war with Britain, against the tax plan. The Census of 1778, besides having significance for economic history, is interesting because each house had to be described in detail and its occupants enumerated, making the census an important tool used even today by restoration architects in Cartagena de Indias's city centre. The original of the census is preserved in the Museum of History of the city while a copy rests in the Archivo de Indias in Seville.

It was the biggest city of the Viceroyalty until 1811, when the Peninsular War, which became Wars of Independence and Piñeres's Revolts, marked the beginning of a dramatic decline in all aspects for what had become the virtual capital of New Granada. In 1815 the city was almost destroyed. No census information exists for that time, only accounts of how the city became a ghost town. Only around 500 impoverished freed slaves dwelt the city, whose palaces and public buildings became ruins, many with collapsed walls.

Recuperation, thought slow, did begin, but then stopped as a result of the general economic and political instability of the country at the time. In addition, isolationist economic policy on the part of the Andean elites doomed the areas with export potential to poverty.

Several famines and cholera outbreaks in the mid-19th century decimated the city, and it was in danger of disappearing.

After the 1880s the city began to recover from crisis and vigorous progress continued, though somewhat slowly, after the 1929 crash. Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Chinese and other immigrant communities developed 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 that of Bogotá, which boomed mainly because of internal displacement and the hope of work opportunities as centralization increased. By 1970, the population spurt was over, but population growth has been dramatic since the 1980s with a mixture of privatization of the port infrastructure, decentralization of tourism, and, sadly, the fact that proportional to its population Cartagena is the city that has received the most displaced people from the countryside with the escalation of civil war in the 1990s in the Andean regions as refugees looked for safety in the Caribbean capital.

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



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 206 m 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.

Northern area

In this area is the Rafael Núñez International Airport, 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 of the airport, is widely recognized as the district with the greatest prospective long-term urban development. It is the setting for the Hotel Las Americas, the urban development office of Barcelona de Indias, and several educational institutions.


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

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

Nearby is the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolívar's Square) and the Palace of the Inquisition. Plaza de Bolivar (formerly known as Plaza de Inquisicion) is essentially a small park with a statue of Simón Bolívar in the center. This plaza is surrounded by some of the city's most elegant, colonial buildings, which have lovely balconies. Shaded outdoor cafes line the street. The Office of Historical Archives devoted to Cartagena's history is not far away. 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.

Another religious building of significance is the restored Santo Domingo Church in front of Plaza Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Square). The square is home to the sculpture Mujer Reclinada ("Reclining Woman"), a gift from the renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

Somewhat removed is the Augustinian Fathers Convent and the University of Cartagena. This university is a center of higher education opened to the public in the late 19th century. The Claustro de Santa Teresa (Saint Theresa Cloister), which has been remodeled and has become a hotel is operated by Charleston Hotels. It has its own square, protected by the San Francisco Bastion.

A 20-minute walk from downtown is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, located in el Pie de la Popa (another neighborhood), the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies. The original fort was constructed between 1639 and 1657 on top of San Lazaro Hill. In 1762 extensive expansion was undertaken, and the result is the current bastion. Numerous attempts to storm the fort were mounted, but it was never penetrated. An extensive system of tunnels is connected underground to distribute provisions and facilitate evacuation. The tunnels were all constructed in such a way as to make it possible to hear footsteps of an approaching enemy. Some of the tunnels are open for viewing today.

San Diego

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

Inside the Old City is found Las Bóvedas (The Vaults), a construction attached to the walls of the Santa Catalina Fortress. From the top of this construction the Caribbean Sea is visible.

Getsemaní neighborhood

This is one of the most representative neighborhoods in Cartagena. African people brought as slaves used to live in this neighborhood, the most prominent place of which is Parque Centenario (Centenary Park), built in 1911 to commemorate a century of independence. Inside 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 the area. This area is also home to many popular clubs like La Carbonera and Mister Babilla. They decorate the night life and enhance the locals and tourists weekends. 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 is in the beaches and nightlife around Avenida San Martín (Saint Martin Avenue), the backbone of the area.

The beaches of Bocagrande, lying along the northern shore, are muddy. There are breakwaters about every 200 yards, and the azure of the Caribbean is lacking as the beach is very nearly at sea level and there is a lack of proper waste disposal in the city. A boat ride of about seven minutes takes visitors far enough out to sea to see the desired Caribbean color.

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

Originally constructed for foreign oil workers, Bocagrande consists mostly the land acquired through land reclamation. Bocagrande is now considered the city's most popular area for tourists.

Tourist sights and attractions
  • Islas del Rosario
  • India Catalina
  • Steps of La Popa mount
  • Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
  • The Walled city of Cartagena
  • Cartagena Gold Museum
  • Palace of the Inquisition
  • Las Bóvedas
  • Playa Blanca, Barú (located in the island of Barú)

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 Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Riohacha ending in Paraguachón, Venezuela and continues with Venezuelan numeration all the way to Caracas. Understand that taxis in the do not have taximeters and you can get around most of the city via walking.

To the southeast the city has more entrances:

Road 25: Going through Turbaco and Arjona, and through the Montes de María when a fork divides it continuing to Sincelejo as National 25 and finally ending in Medellín, and to the east to Valledupar as number 80.

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

Air transportation

The Rafael Núñez International Airport, is the busiest airport in the caribbean region and the fourth in passenger traffic in the country. The code of the airport is CTG, having flights to almost all domestic airports and many connections to Eldorado International Airport in Bogotá. Excessive operational costs and easier connections and better prices had been shifting the gross international connection passengers to the nearer Tocumen International Airport in Panama and Queen Beatrix International Airport in Aruba 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 region 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 Bogotá 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 toward dismantling the railroad system and replacing it with paved roads.

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.

The open ports of the City are:
  • Sociedad Portuaria de Cartagena de Indias (Port Society of Cartagena de Indias). Specialized in container management, the first of his class in the country, 3rd. busiest in the caribbean sea, and 99th ranked port in the world.
  • Muelles El Bosque (El Bosque Docks) Specialized in grain storage, expanding to the container market.
  • Terminal de Contenedores de Cartagena de Indias (Container Terminal of Cartagena de Indias) Container management.
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:
  • The port of the Cartagena de Indias Oil Refinery (REFICAR S.A.)
  • SABMiller brewery port.
  • Argos cement port.
  • Dow Chemical raw materials embarkment port
  • BASF Colombia raw materials embarkment port
  • Du Pont private embarkment port
  • Cemex cement port.
  • Dole Packing house
  • Colombian Navy Steelworks port.
Fluvial transportation

Since the 17th century the bay has been connected to the Magdalena River by the Dique Canal, built by Governor Pedro Zapata de Mendoza. After Colombian independence, the canal was abandoned and growing centralization left the city without resources to fund the vital artery, the last important maintenance work being done in the 50s during Laureano Gómez's administration. Some improvements were made by local authorities in the 1980s, but they were insufficient because of technical objections from the central government that decreed that the "maintenance" of the canal did not fall under the jurisdiction of the local government. From then on, maintenance of the canal was more or less delayed, though it is still functional.

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



The city has many public and private libraries:
  • The Universidad de Cartagena José Fernández Madrid Library: Started in 1821 when the university opened as the "University of Magdalena and Ithsmus". Serves mainly the students and faculty of this university but anyone can use its services.
  • 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 Bartolomé 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 Inquisición, 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 Bolívar 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 España 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.
  • 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 mandates ruling in Cartagena de Indias.
  • Heredia Theatre: Opened in 1911, inspired by the Teatro Tacón of Havana, 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.
  • Universidad de Cartagena Aula Maxima: Although in existence since the early 19th century, it is used mainly for debates which began in the late 1920s, and it still has that use today.
  • The city has registered more than 100 companies of theater and traditional or contemporary dancing and is regularly visited by ballet and opera companies. Many of these local theater and traditional companies have their own auditoriums, among them: Reculá 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, the fortresses and the group of monuments of Cartagena were selected in 1984 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as significant to the heritage of the world, having the most extensive fortifications in South America. They are significant, too, for being located in a bay that is part of the Caribbean Sea. A system of zones 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.

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