I do not deny that before entering this place I felt panic. But the curiosity to know the history of the Palacio de la Inquisición, located in the vicinity of the Plaza Simón Bolívar in the Historical Center of Cartagena de Indias, was much greater than my fears. Some friends who visited the place said that there are cries of the impure souls executed in this place; others go beyond reality by saying that a ghost wanders around the main courtyard. Anyway, true or fantasy, my steps do not stop even though the look of my face reflects anguish.
"It's 20,000 pesos (COP)," says the receptionist, who sees me freezing with fear and astonished when I see one of the paintings in the Palace reception. I pay the ticket that allows me to enjoy this amazing architectural work of the seventeenth century that has a cover made of limestone at the entrance. Just spectacular!
The Palacio de la Inquisición is today the home of the Historical Museum of Cartagena (MUHCA), where the Historical Archive of the city is located. It also works as housing for the two floors that tell the inquisitorial route, and you can get amaze with four rooms located on the second floor responsible for explaining to the visitors the model of Spanish conquest, and also learn how the slave trade used to work. You can see the development of the port, as well as the evolution of the architectural and cultural scenario during the 18th century.
The screech of the gate stops sounding when entering the rooms and, contrary to what I thought, a peaceful atmosphere is breathed. As it is a weekday and I am in the city at a time when the flow of tourism is relatively low, the palace only houses two people besides me. The first thing I notice as I walked in the main courtyard, is how gigantic and imposing its walls are, and also how well they separate me from the city bustle.
The mandatory photograph in here is by posing next to a striking yellow wall with an old door, in which, behind it, it looks like a type of jail to apprehend those accused of offending the Catholic faith. I continue advancing and a few steps away there is another door that offers a different environment, than the one you usually find at a museum. An audiovisual room equipped with a powerful sound and TV that broadcast a video telling the story of Paula de Eguiluz, a mulatto woman accused of witchcraft who suffered strong reprisals and tortures.
After I watched the video, I could observe all the historical data about the presence of the inquisition in Cartagena. I got to know that in this city they established the third court of America (the first ones were located in Lima and Mexico), and I also learned that there were approximately 1.100 cases that were presented in this Palacio de la Inquisición. While I am reading this information, a chill runs through my body. It is as if the presence of the executed ones hovers in each of the words I read. Something terrifying indeed.
I arrive at the Huerta (the orchard), a space of more than 700 meters with a huge tree that covers with its branches all over the place, allowing a glorious shade. On each corner you can relax without feeling the rays of the sun burning your shoulders. It seems as a place away from the real world, where the falling of the leaves is the only thing that you can hear. The place has a guillotine with a rusty blade, the gallows, several cannons and a well in the middle of the huge patio.
I take a picture pretending that I was going to be executed in the Gallows with the rope, but I feel that it moves by itself. I do not know if it's because I went into the Palace scared, or that it really adjusted itself, but I decide to remove my neck. My fear was quite notorious, the drops of sweat ran through me in spite of the fact that the day was cool and the breeze was strong.
After being in the Huerta, it was time to go to the second floor, but I decide to leave because my heart was pumping faster than normal. I know I will return to the Palacio de la Inquisición, because I must finish touring the place, but in the meantime I go to the hotel room to drink some sugar water and think about the terrifying beauty of this iconic city site.