In order to speak about Cartagena de Indias we have to go back to pre-Columbian times, where the land was inhabited by warrior Indians of the Carib race. According to some data, they arrived to Cartagena 600 years ago forming the closest ancestors of the region. They were characterized as being a warrior and worker people. During the Spanish conquering and colonial era, between 16th and 18th centuries, they were reduced and expelled given their warring character. Since 1503 there are references of Spanish expeditions that landed and saw a chance to make a foundation taking advantage of the fine harbor offered by the bay but it was hindered by the native’s resistance. In the third decade of 16th century it was decided to plan a permanent establishment in the area, given its excellent location as a port and for being access to inland. Further expeditions were organized until 1st June, 1533, the Spanish Pedro de Heredia founded the city of Cartagena del Poniente (Cartagena of the West) to differentiate it from Cartagena del Levante (of the East) in Spain, both with similar bays.


Given her strategic location, the new Cartagena de Indias quickly became in a place likely to be invaded by conquerors form other regions, for which the Spanish crown decided to fortify it raising walls around the city for protection and defense. As the native population was weakened they brought African slaves who gave the best of their work to raise the various fortifications that surround the city, attending military considerations of the time. The city was invaded many times, left in ruins, but the invaders never managed to settle. It became capital of the new Kingdom of Granada (now Colombia).


After the period of conquest, colonization, inquisition, and evangelization happened in the Americas, it started in early 19th century the first attempts at becoming independent from the Spanish crown. Cartagena was a birthplace of that movement and on November 11, 1811, they signed the Act of Absolute Independence from Spain, for which it took 10 years to achieve full emancipation. This situation led to the attempt to retrieve it, but the strength of its black, Indian, Creole, Mestizo, Zambo and Mulatto population denied this possibility. For this effort and sacrifice it was awarded the title of The Heroic City.


Once total independence was achieved by today Colombia and in the whole continent, during the Republican era, the city lost both strategic and commercial interest. At the end of the 19th century, Rafael Núñez, a Cartagenero, was elected President of the Republic during thisrecession time in Cartagena de Indias, and directed the Nation from The Heroic City. Núñez was one of the most representative presidents in the short history of Colombia. He promulgated the constitution that governed the country for 114 years.


In the 20th century, Cartagena de Indias rebooted her trade activities as a port and entrance to the Colombian inlands. In 1985 it was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, supplementing her role in history. Cartagena is currently a commercial, political and touristic centers of Colombia, the Americas and the World.


Editor: Luis Alberto González Araujo. Information from:

Also available: