My favourite place: Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

In the latest instalment of our historical holidays series, Miranda Kaufmann describes the colour and culture of a former Spanish colonial city

Historic San Felipe de Barajas castle is one of the main attractions in Cartagena, Colombia. (Image: Thinkstock by Getty Images)

I’ve only visited Cartagena de Indias once, but it cast an enduring spell on me. I arrived in the old walled city after dark. Wandering past colourful Spanish colonial houses, their balconies overflowing with bright pink bougainvillea, I was seduced by the music echoing through the  cobbled streets. Like the city itself, the music was a fusion of cultures: the dancers below the statue of Simón Bolívar (Venezuelan leader, and president of Gran Colombia from 1819–30) moved to the sounds of African drumbeats and South American pipes.

Standing beneath the statue of India Catalina – outside the city wall – it’s hard not to be reminded that indigenous peoples inhabited this area for some 5,000 years before the Spanish arrived. Catalina was the daughter of a Kalamari chieftain, and was captured in 1509. She was baptised and learnt Spanish, later acting as a translator for Pedro de Heredia when he founded the city in 1533. The help she gave this conquistador, who plundered the wealth of her people, still divides opinion as to whether she should be remembered as a heroine or a traitor.

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