Didem Doğan

The history of the city of Cartagena: from Calamary to Cartagena de Indias

This part of the Place of Inquisition is dedicated to the history of Cartagena. How did this place called Cartagena de Indias was founded, how did it become this port city? Long before the European white man arrived at this land there was a different life; several tribes with thousands of people, with its own social structure, a belief system, an agricultural organisation, used to live here. Around 3500 yeas B.C., the Tainos and the Karibs are some of them. We actually have a lot of information about them: the Karibs, the Mocanas, the Karex, Yurbacos, Turbanas, Galapas, are some of the other tribes. These people have medium shaped and muscled bodies, they are flexible, they have small feet, dark eyes and hair; men cut their hair while women use it long, men are naked, women carry jewels on their ankles, necks, bellies. the warriors carry a plum on their forehead. They are an expert in sailing, most of the time they eat fish, oysters that they hunt on the sea. The land was called Kalamary back then, probably because of the sea prawns. The tribe of the Karibs name the whole area of the Caribbean and they were the first tribe that Kolomb found when he set foot on these lands. The indian tribes that used to live here had an advance social structure. They built water channels, they have an ability to move on the waters. We are talking about a 5000 thousands years of civilisation that started long before the Spanish came here. The people of Zenu who live in the interior (the Gold Museum across the street is dedicated to Zenu culture) are experts on the gold mines that lay in the interior; their gold craft is very advanced and the Spanish see them as the key to their search for the treasure of ‘El Dorado’. When you think of the history of Kalamary then you understand how short is the history of colonialism. The Spanish Pedro de Heredia, whom the official history sites as the founder of Cartagena on 14th of January in 1533 called this place at first San Sebastian de Calgary (referring to the Saint and his birthday on the 20th of January). The ‘new’ land of the Spanish Kingdom was called ‘the new Granada’ and it would take them almost 300 years to get their independence and found a Republic in 1811.

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