10 years ago I discovered a beautiful and quite curious corner of the Walled Cord that brings together the most varied handicraft market, distributed in 23 stores in the same number of half-barreled, bomb-proof vaults, characterized by the simplicity and elegance of the neoclassical architectural works. Since then in all my travels the obligatory visit is to Las Bóvedas, that also represents a significant historical value for Cartagena de Indias.
In the barracks of Las Bóvedas, as it was called in ancient times, where part of the garrison of the city and royal troops of Spain stayed, there is currently the widest exhibition of souvenirs, gifts, details, paintings and artisan pieces in general from Colombia and from neighboring countries such as Ecuador and Peru.
During my last visit, a month ago, to this edification that finished closing the ring of the urban fortification of the old city, I walked through each store. They were all sheltered by 47 semicircular arches topped by a triangular pediment on which is carved in marble the shield of Spain. I started with the last one, called La Garita, it attracts attention due to the quantity of handmade backpacks elaborated in La Guajira, and handbags made with Colombian materials.
All the shops, whether Cosas raras, Mirarte, La 19, La 17, El Dorado, Corinche, San Martin, El Artesano, La Villa Real, India Catalina, Treasures of the Caribbean, La 4, La 2, or Sión Artesanías, are characterized for its colorful and striking display that invites you to enter and stay longer until you find the perfect gift or souvenir. Some of them look like art galleries, and, in most of them, you can get the authentic Colombian coffee.
On the outskirts, the Palenqueras are in charge of recreating the atmosphere with their warm smiles, striking attires and punch cups full of colorful tropical fruits or delicious delicacies. Although they are not allowed to be photographed easily, they are part of the life of this square.
The entrance of vault number 21 caught my attention. To get inside it is like entering one of the tunnels of the amazing Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, with the difference that it is completely illuminated and with rows of backpacks that make it much more colorful and garnish the whole store. In there I chose a flashy backpack that for me was the best, with green and fuchsia colors, embroidered in stones.
I heard that this vault is different to all. It has two levels and it was used exclusively by the garrison commander, who entered it through a gallery located above the wall. Guided by curiosity, I detailed each corner and in the background I discovered a jewelry store, but I decided to go back where I entered.
In my tour I could see that all the vaults have a ventilation system and communicated with each other through passages. After Independence, these fortifications were ruined until 1972, where they became a site of cultural interest.
Whether in chiva, car, bicycle, on foot, by taxi, or in air-conditioned buses, many foreigners visit Las Bóvedas, attracted, as I am, by the charm and color of this place and depart full of memories of the finest pieces of craft tradition and goldsmithing in general.
I reiterate once again that I will never stop visiting this beautiful place and I will never return to my country without a detail that reminds me of my time in beautiful Cartagena.
In a few words:
- They are neoclassical.
- They were built between 1792 and 1798.
- They were refuge of the troops and deposit of gunpowder and provisions.
- They were used as cells.
- It was the last work made in Cartagena by Antonio de Arévalo Porras.
San Diego neighborhood, between the Forts of Santa Clara and Santa Catalina of the Walled Cord. Around these edification there are boutique hotels and emblematic sites of Cartagena.