The city of Cartagena de Indias is one of the oldest cities founded by the Spaniards in South America. Cartagena was founded in 1533 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Heredia, thanks to its location in a sheltered bay along the Caribbean Sea, the city became soon one of the largest ports in Spanish America.
To protect the port and the trade of Cartagena, the Spaniards built an impressive network of fortifications that included 11 km of walls including the impressive Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Many of the fortifications of Cartagena were the work of Italian architect Battista Antonelli.
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 in Cartagena came the gold and silver of Peru and Colombia (at the time called Nueva Granada), here came also the slaves from Africa. Cartegena was in fact one of the two ports – the other was Veracruz in Mexico – that the King of Spain had authorized for the slave trade.
The Spanish Inquisition settled in Cartagena in 1610, the only other two locations in Spanish America were those of Lima and Mexico City. The city became one of the richest in America, and was several times attacked by pirates and by the enemy nations of Spain.
Today Cartagena is one of the most important cities of Colombia, the fifth for number of inhabitants of the country, its wealth is due to the petrochemical industry, to the transformation of industrial products, agriculture and tourism.
The city is located in Northern Colombia along the coast of the Caribbean Sea in a deep and well-sheltered bay. Its old town retains its colonial fortifications, churches and public buildings of the period in which Cartagena was the main port for the trade of Spanish America.
Cartagena, for its military architecture and its colonial monuments, has been inscribed since 1984 in the list of World Heritage Sites.