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A stroll through Getsemani

Colombia day twelve

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Plaza de la Aduana, Cartagena

With no fixed plans today we had a leisurely breakfast (great granola) before going out to explore a different part of Cartagena, known as Getsemani. To get there we walked back down to the Plaza de la Aduana, where we had been yesterday with Walter – the Custom House square where slaves and other goods were traded. It was still quite early and the square was quiet so it was a good opportunity to get some better photos than had been possible yesterday, with Walter setting the pace.

Statue of Columbus in the Plaza de la Aduana

We walked through to the Plaza de Los Cloches, formerly the Plaza de los Esclavos (the Square of the Slaves). I took another photo of the statue of Pedro de Heredia, in better light than yesterday’s. We also tipped one of the Palenqueras, the ubiquitous colourfully dressed ladies, a couple of dollars to get a posed photo, although generally I prefer my more candid shots. These women are named for the first slave-free town in America, San Basilio de Palenque, and are traditionally said to be a reminder of the city’s origins, built by slaves under the control of the Spanish colonisers.

Statue of Pedro de Heredia, and a Palenquera, in the Plaza de Los Cloches

Then we walked through the gate in the city wall, beneath the clock tower, and crossed the strip of land that was created artificially to infill between the two islands that together made up the original city.

We walked through the park, the Parque Centenario, home to a small troop of monkeys and a family of three-toed sloths. We spotted one of the latter (or rather, a helpful local pointed him out) but he was too hidden among the leaves to get good photos.

Sloth in the Parque del Centenario


On the far side we were in Getsemani. Historically, this is the area where African slaves lived during colonial times. The Spanish had imported them (after they’d killed off most of the native population) to build their fortifications: the city walls and the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Later they were used as servants and on further labour projects, such as road building. They were housed here, outside the city walls, away from the grand homes of the soldiers and merchants who controlled it.

Subsequently the area became home to the city’s artisan workers, including freed slaves. They included carpenters, masons, shipbuilders and blacksmiths. It was one of the latter, Pedro Romero, who led Getsemani’s largely black working class population in a militia group that supported Cartagena’s bid for independence from Spain. On November 11, 1811 the city council voted in favour of a declaration of independence. This asserted the province of Cartagena to be a free and sovereign state, dissolving all ties between it and the Spanish crown.

For many years this was a no-go area for tourists, a hub of gun violence and crime. Indeed, when we expressed a desire to visit we were warned to be careful by the guide who had taken us on a tour of the fort and old city the previous day. But the warnings are largely out-of-date, as today’s Getsemani is a vibrant arty community welcoming to visitors.

Getsemani may lie just outside the Centro Historico but don’t let that fool you. Its streets are just as historic and many of its buildings just as beautiful. They are on the whole, however, smaller. Instead of colonial mansions, here there are more modest single storey houses. And street art; lots of street art!

I'd read that Calle de la Sierpe was a particularly good road for street art so we sought that out and started along it. The first couple of pieces we found were a little rough, but for most of its length there was a lot to admire and photograph. These are just a handful of the many shots I took here:




Street art on Calle de la Sierpe

Traditionally the murals here celebrate the people of the quarter, or highlight social issues such as the neighbourhood’s fight against gentrification, racism, and treatment of the indigenous population. Famous figures also appear including Gabriel García Márquez.

Further along Calle de la Sierpe we came to the Plaza de la Trinidad. I was disappointed to find the church locked and too much in the shade for decent photos. But there were plenty of other photo opportunities in the vicinity.

Palenqueras in the Plaza de la Trinidad

On Calle de la Sierpe



Street art on Calle de la Sierpe

On Calle de la Sierpe

We spent a lot of time strolling and taking photos, with the streets gradually getting busier and hotter. Mid-morning we found a great little café with cool décor, nicely air-conditioned and serving excellent coffee. It gave a further lie to the stories of Getsemani as a no-go area for tourists!

In the café

After refreshing ourselves we explored one of the side streets, Calle San Antonio, where we found an artist at work, displays of paintings, more street art – and a boy with a pet tortoise!



On Calle San Antonio




Street art on Calle San Antonio

In a house on Calle San Antonio

It was getting very hot by now, and also busy, the narrow pavements often blocked with selfie-takers and those searching for the perfect spot for an Instagram pose. We made our way back to the Parque Centenario, where we got a much better sighting of a sloth.


Sloth in the Parque del Centenario

Further in we found one of the iguanas that also live here.

Iguana in the Parque del Centenario

A group of young English guys around another tree alerted us to the presence of monkeys. They were feeding them with bits of mango. I'm not sure how advisable that is, but it did help me get some decent photos!


Monkeys in the Parque del Centenario

A quieter afternoon

Back in the old city we stopped off for a much needed cold drink before gradually making our way back to the hotel, of course taking more photos on the way and also checking out a few shops.

In the old town


Building details

But we decided to leave serious shopping for tomorrow and instead went for our by now customary ice cream ‘lunch’ before finally getting back to the hotel around two.

We downloaded photos then went to the pool area where I had a short swim before my new favourite drink of limonada de coco. And yes, I’m aware this post is dotted with refreshment breaks, but it was a hot day and we needed regular refuelling!

In the evening we ate at Majagua, one of the restaurants on the nearby Plaza Fernández Madrid. We thought we'd ordered empanadas to start with but discovered that the English version of the menu omitted to mention the other things they came with, resulting in a large plateful of traditional foods including fired plantains, yucca and belly pork. We didn’t eat it all but nevertheless I was full before my main course of tuna arrived. I found that OK but a little dull. Afterwards we had a drink outside in the square, watching all the activity and enjoying the pleasant evening temperatures.

Street near our hotel at night

Posted by ToonSarah 14:53 Archived in Colombia Tagged art wildlife history statue colour colombia street_art sloths street_photography

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Love the sloths and the iguana. I don't think I have ever seen a sloth, certainly not in the wild anyway.

by irenevt

The sloths are just amazing, this is truly a must see when in the city and don't excuse yourself for the many stops along the way, I would do just the same if I was there in the heat! A rest now and than never hurt anyone and while relaxing you get a nice view of the surroundings!

by Ils1976

Thank you both, and Ils, thanks too for all the photo comments and stars :D I'm sorry I don't reply to them all - it's hard to keep up with your enthusiasm!

by ToonSarah

haha, no worries Sarah, already looking forward to reading some more!

by Ils1976

Busy (and fun) day, even with all the necessary breaks! ;)

by hennaonthetrek

Exactly so Henna :)

by ToonSarah

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