If you think of Cartagena, it is inevitable that the word "history" will appear in your mind, and then the streets of the center, churches and museums become the most elemental in the list of places to visit when arriving in the city.
So on this occasion, I have decided to add two new words to explore in your visit to this great city, and the ones chosen are "tradition" and "juxtaposed". Everywhere you look, you see combinations of old and new, combinations of differences which seems to blend together in perfect harmony. Where to look for the perfect site to explore is the question that arises right now in your head, the answer is simple and you do not have to walk a lot or get away from your tour.
If you are in front of the Clock Tower, then you should look to the front, walk the Plaza de La Paz, and when you reach the end of this long white tiled corridor in which statues of the martyrs of independence pose with big faces, you will find the Teatro Cartagena, and will officially be at the beginning of your new tour. You are treading the most traditional neighborhood. In which a great number of races and languages converged, and still today, it remains that great non-official cultural center of the city of Cartagena. You have come to Gethsemane.
At the beginning of the road
It is 4:30 in the afternoon and the sun begins to slowly drop lower in the sky. At this time the sun is more forgiving. I'm in front of the Teatro Cartagena, and about to start walking in the most traditional neighborhood of the city. At a street vendor, I stop to buy a traditional Colombian snack. ‘Mango biche’, which is an unripe mango accompanied with salt, pepper and lemon. The seller Is skilled in the preparation. I ask for it with little salt, but with enough pepper and lemon. The crunchy texture and the bitter taste is perfectly balanced by the pepper and lemon -- a pleasure not to be missed in life.
With a smile and some eager anticipation, I start to walk along the Long Street. In this space I only see the "modern", the Getsemaní Shopping Center, some pastry shops, banks and restaurants on the each side of the street. I’m grateful to see how businesses of today can still operate in and honor the old structures that maintain the general image of that Cartagena of old, in this ancestral neighborhood. Arriving at the end of the shopping street, and made the transition to the area of colors and graffiti, the human Getsemaní, historical, mixtures and tradition.
Among colorful houses
Getsemani welcomes me with a great variety of colors and images, with an incomparable scent of fresh wood and flowers. I walk aimlessly through narrow streets, punctuated by brightly colored houses, which unintentionally create a work of art, worthy of being scattered on some canvas.
Blue, green, yellow and orange in all tones, are part of the moment. Accompanying the variety of colors, is that Colonial and Republican architecture, which, unlike those of the Historic Center, stand out more for the colors than for the large and elaborate facades. They are simple houses, with discreet facades and fascinating balconies. There are many colorful houses, with beautiful windows and with their owners "planted" on the terrace, waving to everyone who passes by the street.
Memories of freedom
It's already 5:20 pm, and the breeze has been my faithful companion, at first it was just cool, but now, when the moon promises to turn off the sun, it has become a bit colder. I follow the path, without losing sight of each house and each wall. In Gethsemane there is no piece of empty wall, in white.
Locals and foreigners have taken every wall of this neighborhood of tradition and history, and they have created by hand, hundreds of graffiti, paintings and other artistic expressions that recall a moment in history, create an instant of reflection or evoke a situation or moment. More current, but everyone has something to say. In the walls I can see signatures of Brazilian artists, travelers, Argentines, Spaniards and, of course, the local quota, signatures of cultural and artistic groups.
The most drawn lines are attached to the face of Pedro Romero. He and his name, or some slogan that recalls his work and existence. I remember at this point, the forgotten history, in which no one told me about the existence of an independent cry that was black, that was created, produced, made real, from this piece of the city. In the head of that great Cuban leader, armed with reasons, took Cartagena and achieved the first cry of independence of those who have memory of these walls, these houses, the air that surrounds me today. I remember, why Gethsemane is history.
Places of tradition
A child tries to climb onto a bench while a dog, just behind him, is pulling down his pants. That is one of the metal sculptures with which we take in at the Plazuela del Pozo. A silent place, seen in the distance thanks to that great spider-shaped street light, a sculpture in steel of wonderful proportions. A perfect place to make a stop, admire the ingenious sculptures around, rest for a couple of seconds, and go on.
It's 6:00 in the afternoon and, from the sun, there are only a couple of orange lines in the sky, almost dark. Suddenly, I stumble upon a much larger square, located in front of a simple yellow church, I have reached the Plaza de La Trinidad. Historians say that this place was the favorite meeting place of Pedro Romero and his followers, which was the place where they explained their reasons and explored their strategy. I'm standing on a piece of history.
No matter where you come from ...
In this main square, the colors, languages and cultures are so diverse that they achieve the creation of a unique, balanced, superior environment. In my limited knowledge of other languages I hear a lot of English and French, the accents are not far behind, the gaucho being the most outstanding. Here the foreigners seem to belong to the family, mixing with students and coastal neighbors who welcome them in their groups, and share with them unpretentiously, as one more member of the neighborhood.
This place is an amalgam of cultures, in the streets I can see dance academies, music and even some that stimulate to learn Spanish or to ride a bicycle. The hostels, hotels and residences, offer you a "family atmosphere" that invites you to stay close. Perhaps because of this, a large number of people from other countries who come to visit or exchange university, end up staying in this neighborhood that is, by origin, traditional and by its people, perfect to welcome anyone who wants to stay a few hours, a few days or whoever decides at the end, to simply stay.
In Getsemani the night comes to stay
Restaurants and bars begin to open their doors, to take out chairs and tables at the entrance. The nightlife in Gethsemane gives welcomes us. The first to open are restaurants, a wide range of pizzerias, fast food stalls and international food restaurants show us their menus, which offer a variety of dishes and presentations. Our mission is only to decide what we want to eat, then select a place and venture to taste the flavors it offers.
Suddenly, the music starts playing. The nights in Getsemaní are alive with the sound of champeta, salsa and reggae, the rumba is Caribbean. And if you think you should arrive at the weekend to enjoy the party, let me inform you that you are wrong, here it is rumored from Wednesday to Sunday. There is no room for days of boredom or laziness. This becomes a new site of encounter of cultures, because although the majority of the attendees are visitors from all over the world, the Cartageneros also are arranged and participate of this great party with sounds of here, and people from outside, dancing And enjoying every band, every song, every touch.
The rumba in Gethsemane shows you the royal city. The one that is closer to the coastal culture, the sounds, the people and the colors that characterize it. Knowing this neighborhood, day and night, is to enter the sonorous and colorful Caribbean culture, which you will not know anywhere else in the city. That which is thought from the local, the original.
I stand, waiting for the champeta group that is about to begin. And you, do not miss this experience that brings you closer to the culture of the city, and does not stray from history, only complements it with a little of that magnificent present, that culture of flavors, smells and colors, which will take your visit to Cartagena to a new level.
Enjoy more of this fascinating neighborhood clicking HERE