Art and Culture in Colombia
A cool evening breeze travels and wraps around ancient buildings and down narrow brick streets touching the sweaty flesh of people walking everywhere. As it continues, people begin to feel re-energized after the typical hot day of this tropical climate. This is Cartagena, Colombia and the ghosts here are many. There is a 20 foot high wall surrounding the original old city and within it the original architecture, much of it hundreds of years old, still stands and has been transformed into shops, restaurants, and small motels. Friday and Saturday nights feel as though a magical force raised the spirit of this city from the ground as you can hear music around every corner. Several performances are always occurring by surprise, much of what are traditional ones of ancient times such as slave dances. As the deep-tone drums, squawks of performers, and several torches dance about, I can feel a chill run up my spine and I’m suddenly into the moment and absorbing everything with every one of my senses. It’s a truly unique place. In countless ways, I feel as though I’m standing in a living work of art while there.
Cartagena was founded by Spain in the 1500’s and eventually fortified to protect against invasions. The protective strategies never seemed to be enough though, as repeated successful invasions left it held for ransom by pirates on many occasions. It was truly a precious city for Spain and they once invested what would equal two trillion dollars today into its defenses. One evening during my 4th visit to Cartagena, I decided it’s time to tour the castle. As we arrived we realized that visiting hours had ended 2 hours earlier, but after this many visits to Colombia I had learned enough to know what to do. I said to my friend “tell the guard I’ll give him 30,000 pesos ($17 US) to allow the 4 of us in” and he did allow us in. So there we were with a large castle all to ourselves. No tour guide. Just an entrance guard that had no interest in what we did. I think the top of the castle is 200 feet above the ground and I could see everywhere. In some moments I felt as though the ghosts of past were still there. I could imagine cannons firing and people running and shouting in their defense of an invasion. Events such as what I used to see in old pirate movies as a child actually took place in this very spot, many times.
One thing I’ve recently been realizing is that there is so much art and literary masterpieces created and written in the countries of Latin America. Colombia is no exception and I believe my goal of learning Spanish will help me discover more. Reading another blog yesterday of a lady that is visiting Cartagena today, she mentioned a book “Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera” in which he writes about Cartagena. I downloaded the English version. The same author wrote a Noble Prize winner “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and I downloaded that as well. For anyone interested, please see the links to these books (in English) at the bottom of this post.
Now, I’d like to share a writing in Spanish that a 14 year old friend/cousin of mine (Laura) wrote recently. She lives in the coast of Colombia and this is in Spanish, but you can go to www.google.com/translate and paste it into the box for an instant translation. (or if using Google Chrome, just right click and choose translate) It’s amazing, the deep thoughts that the mind of such a young lady can produce. Read and enjoy.
Desperté y me encontré con un mundo frente a mis ojos, un mundo que solo en mis sueños más remotos había visto, un mundo surrealista, de encanto; por el cual daría todo por verlo nuevamente un segundo.
Ese maravilloso lugar de árboles de colores que se mueven solo para darte algo de sombra y la deslumbrante luz que refleja el inmenso sol acompañado de esas nubes de hermoso rosa con un cielo estrellado, aquel sitio de grandiosos pastos naranja y cascadas amarillas donde saltan y nadan peces de colores en busca de algo nuevo y desconocido; los grandes caminos de piedra que te llevan a esas montañas púrpuras con verde nieve y extrañas flores de figuras que te dejan maravillado con su aspecto; y al llegar a aquella puerta de largas pestañas me doy cuenta del cercano retorno a la realidad, miro hacia atrás y tal es el sentimiento que se apodera de mí que es imposible tratar de evitarlo: Ya no volveré a aquel mundo de fábula, lo cual me llena de tristeza…
By Laura Pico