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| 1/20/2011 12:00:00 AM

Cartagena, Colombia, Rocks!

January 20--Mention Colombia to Americans and "cocaine" is probably the first word that will spring to mind. Next might be "communist," as in the longtime insurgency. But "classical music" definitely isn't the third c-word association.

Yet the International Music Festival in the coastal resort city of Cartagena just completed its fifth sold-out season with stars of the classical world flying in for a joyous celebration of Johann Sebastian Bach's work. Even those who aren't hardcore classical buffs would enjoy a few days of heavenly music while exploring the Old Town of this colonial capital.

But what about the cocaine cartels and armed rebels? In recent years, they've been pushed into faraway jungles so that Bogota, the Colombian capital, is now about as safe as Chicago. Cartagena ("carta-hayn-yuh") was always a safe neutral zone anyway and remains one of the hemisphere's best-kept travel secrets, with wonderfully-restored 17-18th century buildings, a beautiful tropical setting, and a lively dining and club scene.

Which is why musicians tend to beg to come back each year to play at the music festival, even those from elsewhere in Latin America, where support for classical music education in schools is high and the level of popular interest is shown by the massive turnout for the festival's outdoor events. This ought to be embarrassing for those of us from the United States, where symphonies and opera companies struggle to survive.
 
Read more here.

Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.

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