By: Kristy Ellis
KRISTY ELLIS is an Australian, who has spent the past five years living and falling in love with all things Cartagena. She shares this local knowledge and contagious passion for her adopted hometown in personalized and group walking tours of the city and on her website cartagenaconnections.com
There was once a time that tourists in Cartagena were warned to stay clear of Getsemani, the colorful neighborhood being considered a little too “caliente” in the wrong sort of way.
Thankfully times have changed, the area is now super safe and offers visitors a chance to experience more of the culture of Cartagena, beyond the film-set like touristy perfection of the historic walled center.
This is a neighborhood where locals live, they eat belly-filling “corrientazos” at affordable prices from hole-in-the-wall restaurants, dance champeta and vallenato blaring out from giant sound-systems in front of their homes, buy their groceries from the corner store (normally pausing to check the football score at the same time), play after school sports in the plaza, and generally fill the streets with a vibrancy and warmth you won’t encounter anywhere else in the city.
If you want to connect with Cartagena culture, here’s some things to do while in Getsemani:
EAT A BOLI
Do it like the kids from the “barrio”do, and buy a refreshing frozen fruit “boli” from one of the neighborhood windows. A handwritten sign declaring “HAY BOLIS” will usually be the giveaway to their location, or just ask a local.
PEOPLE WATCH IN PLAZAS
The Plaza of the Trinidad is the perfect place to soak up local life - eat a bigass burger dripping with condiments, join in the Sunday night Zumba class, play chess with the best in the business. It is the ultimate melting pot of ages, social groups, genders, nationalities and everyone is welcome.
Getsemani is filled with impressive murals and walls that talk, sharing commentary on social issues such as the neighborhood’s fight against gentrification, racism, treatment of the indigenous population, and local forgotten hero Pedro Romero. Wander on your own, or book a tour with Cartagena Connections for the full-picture.
To really appreciate the people of Cartagena, you have to understand that there is music and dance pulsing through their veins. Back when Cartagena was first founded, Getsemani was home to the Bohemian segment of society, and the most divergent, creative and influential artists hosted raucous music-filled parties within the humble houses. You’ll witness this legacy in the streets and on every corner, but to get the full experience, head along to one of Getsemani’s iconic live music temples such as Café Havana (salsa) and Bazurto Social Club (champeta).