The city of Cartagena de Indias is one of the oldest cities founded by the Spanish in South America. Cartagena was founded in 1533 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Heredia. Thanks to its position, in a well-sheltered bay along the Caribbean Sea, it soon became one of the largest ports in Spanish America.
To defend the port and trade of Cartagena, the Spaniards built an impressive network of fortifications. These defensive works included 11 km of walls including the imposing Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Many of the fortifications of Cartagena were the work of the Italian architect Battista Antonelli.
THE MAIN COMMERCIAL PORT OF SPANISH AMERICA
The walls and defenses of Cartagena since their construction were described by contemporaries as the masterpiece of Spanish military engineering in America.
During the colonial era, gold and silver from Peru and Colombia (then Nueva Granada) arrived in Cartagena. Also, slaves from Africa came here. Cartagena was in fact one of the two ports, the other was Veracruz in Mexico, which the King of Spain had authorized for the slave trade.
The Spanish inquisition settled in Cartagena in 1610. The only two other locations of the inquisition in Spanish America were those of Lima and Mexico City. The city became one of the richest in America and was attacked several times by pirates and enemy nations of Spain.
Today Cartagena is one of the most important cities in Colombia, the fifth most populated in the country. Its wealth is mainly due to the petrochemical industry, to the processing of industrial products, to agriculture and tourism. Above all tourism is today a pillar of the economy. In recent years the city has become a popular destination for large cruise ships sailing the Caribbean.
The city is located in northern Colombia along the Caribbean Sea coast in a deep and well-sheltered bay. Its historic center maintains its colonial aspect with the fortifications, churches and public buildings of the period when Cartagena was the main port for trade in Spanish America.
Cartagena, for its military architecture and colonial monuments, has been in the restricted circle of UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1984.