Cartagena, City Of Contrasts

I have to admit, I never thought I’d find myself in Cartagena.  In fact, I rather hoped I wouldn’t, since all we hear about Colombia is drug wars and violence, with a little side note of coffee thrown in.  What we saw in a single day was such a study in contrasts that I’m tempted to let the photos speak for themselves,

but I don’t know exactly what they’d say to you.  I know that I don’t want to go back to Cartagena, but I’m glad to have been there for a few hours. Where to begin?

Some people live like this.  Rather a lot of people, I imagine.  Some may have it much worse, but our guide wouldn’t take us there.

Some people live like this, mostly rich foreigners, according to our guide.

There are bars on all the windows, no matter how decorative they are. We didn’t get to see where the very rich Colombians live, but then again, I don’t think we really wanted to be in that neighborhood.

The Church clearly has scads of money.

This altar is all gold, which made me squeamish in the same way that the Hermitage in St. Petersburg did, when I saw old ladies begging just outside the door.

The Social Security building was not far

from a huge and elaborate bank building, which has its own sort of appropriateness.

Before there were banks people worshipped the Golden Goat.

Now they work,

many doing things especially for tourists.

There were lots of ladies dressed like this, and you could pay to take their picture,

plus hundreds, if not thousands, of these guys.  I was safely in a van, because if I’d been walking they would have been blocking my every step, trying to sell me some cheap purses, fans, drawings, bracelets “real silver, lady” or other tourist gewgaws that it’s hard to imagine anyone buying.

I’m crossing my fingers that these school kids grow up to have more options.

There were quiet refuges for us in Cartagena

although we had to pay to enter them.

I didn’t love Cartagena, in any measure, but I’m glad to have seen it for one short day. And just as glad to flee towards Florida.

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10 Comments on “Cartagena, City Of Contrasts”

  1. paula Says:

    Beautiful photos! I feel like I was there.
    By the way, La Biblioteca Bartolomé Calvo is a big library, or archive (bank?)of native art. I guess there’s not such a big difference between cultural riches and hard currency–both need to be stored and protected.

  2. Abra Bennett Says:

    Wow, really? I must have misunderstood our guide, who, I swear, said it was a bank, built to look like an American bank with the eagle over the door. Maybe she said a former bank? I was wondering about the word biblioteca, which I do recognize because it’s the same word in French. I love it when readers know more than I do!

  3. Debra Lane Says:

    Its definitely an adventure of colorful sights in many ways. It makes me thankful for what we have in our country. Wishing you a nice journey as you head back home. Love to you and Shel!

  4. Melissa Says:

    Wonderful photos. But does anyone else find it ironic that the ad from Google on this post (at least as I see it now) is titled “Find a Colombian Wife” and says that hundreds of profiles with photos and video are available so you can find your lady and get married?

  5. Abra Bennett Says:

    What? You see ads on French Letters? I thought Word Press doesn’t allow ads!

  6. Jeanne Says:

    All I can think of when I hear “Cartagena” is the movie Romancing the Stone. When it was first released, I wanted to go to Cartagena just because it sounded good; my travel agent said no. Just a flat out NO. (this was a travel agent who routinely booked me on adventures and this was the first time she ever said no!)

  7. Abra Bennett Says:

    Actually, we wanted to go to the food market, as we had in Acapulco, and as we do in every city we can. Two tour guides flat out refused to take us there, saying we wouldn’t be safe. Makes you think.

  8. Sue-On Hillman Says:

    Thanks Abra for posting about Cartegena. I have friends living there and they are trying to find a safer place to live. It was good for me to have a look at their city. Thehave read this entry and agree with you one hundred percent!

  9. Nancy Says:

    Going back to the bank/library issue: the smaller print above the “Biblioteca Bartolome Calvo” sign says, quite definitely, “Banco de la Republica”. That means “Bank of the Republic”. Perhaps the library is in an old, renovated bank building?

  10. Peter de Montigny Says:

    Great pictures. Amazing colour. Thanks for posting this. Cheers Peter

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