November 25, 2016
Welcome to Cartagena!
Unlike Bogota, Cartagena did make a strong first impression. First off, you've got the heat! Hello humidity! And then there's the walled city: it felt like we were back in Marrakesh, getting lost on in the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
In truth, Cartagena's old city isn't nearly as confusing as Marrakesh and generally the streets are wider and with way less traffic. Still, there's no denying that Cartagena has real character.
We wandered the old city, with the first priority being to find and eat ice cream. We then hit the only vegan restaurant in town and enjoyed a full set meal for $3.00 USD each.
One location that was especially powerful was the Inquisition Museum. While most of the exhibits were in Spanish, there was enough English to appreciate just how thoroughly cruel and evil the inquisition was. I knew that Jews were persecuted during this time, but I hadn't realized so too was the local Afro-Carribean community. In the end, the museum stands as a beacon of acceptance, taking a place of unspeakable evil and re-purposing it for good.
The irony wasn't lost on me when, a few nights later, we'd catch a live troupe of dancers performing in the square in front of the museum. The dancers seemed to do both a traditional Spanish dance as well as a traditional African one. It was a visceral way of showing just how thoroughly the likes of the inquisition has failed to silence ideas and traditions.
We finished our first night in Cartagena watching the sunset from the Northern wall of the town. It couldn't have been more perfect.