Jamaica Observer | 6/9/2010 12:00:00 AM
Cartagena, Colombia where hope trumps despair
June 9--The port city of Cartagena on the rugged Caribbean coast of Colombia has more lives than a proverbial cat. It is a wonderfully fascinating place where hope has repeatedly trumped despair.
Cartagena has had the sort of up-and-down history that ought to resonate strongly wherever violence and inept government seem to be the order of the day. Cartagena may stay knocked down for a long time. But it never stays down forever; and it never gives up. A sound moral emerges from the challenging experience of the people of Cartagena. It is that nothing lasts forever.
Cartagena was founded in 1553 during the Spanish expansion in their desperate search for gold and other precious commercial commodities. A civil war was still raging among the conquistadores in upper Peru. With an excellent sheltered harbour and abundant supplies of fresh water from the nearby Magdalena River, the location proved irresistibly attractive. So Pedro de Heredia started a modest settlement that grew in fits and starts. When the wars ended Cartagena became an important nodal point along the route that linked the wealth of Peru to Havana and Spain. From Peru and the interior of Colombia came copious quantities of silver and gold for trans-shipment to Spain. In the other direction flowed African slaves to do the multiple manual tasks required in colonial construction and development. More and more merchants arrived to carry on legal and illegal trade. Even the Office of the Inquisition established a branch in Cartagena to make sure that material prosperity did not undermine religious orthodoxy.
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