Colorful Cartagena, Colombia

The city of Cartagena located on the Atlantic Coast of Colombia was founded by the Spaniards in 1533. It was known then as Cartagena de Indias.

By 1586 construction began on a stone fortification to protect the city from Caribbean pirates. In time, the city was enclosed by 7 miles of militarily fortified walls. It is considered one of the most extensive fortifications of South America. Cartagena was a major trading hub for the Spanish and Portuguese.

The picture below shows the stone wall and canons surrounding the old city. In the far distance is Boca Grande where the beach hotels and modern apartment buildings are.

The next photo shows La Torre del Reloj, the Clock Tower, the entrance to the walled city.


In the 1990’s Cartagena underwent a major restoration. Today you can visit La Ciudad Vieja, the old city,  and feel like you have stepped back in time enjoying its beautiful streets, architecture, and culture.

My husband I recently visited Cartagena, Colombia. The city is divided into various neighborhoods. The hotels by the beach and modern apartments are located in the Boca Grande area. We chose to stay in the old colonial city in Sofitel’s Santa Clara Hotel in the San Diego neighborhood. The Santa Clara was originally built in 1621 as a convent for the order of Las Clarissas, also known as the nuns of the Order of St. Claire. The convent operated for 240 years until 1861 when the government took over church properties. The property was then used as a prison until 1884 and as a hospital until 1974. The property was then abandoned and fell into major disrepair. Sofitel purchased the property and after a major renovation opened the hotel in 1994. Today it is one of Cartagena’s most beautiful hotels.

The spectacular inside courtyard of The Santa Clara hotel. On the bottom right hand side is one of the original 4 wells of the convent.

Stepping out of our hotel and exploring the neighborhood.

Iglesia de Santo Toribio located in one of the corners of The Plaza Fernandez de Madrid

In the picture below, on the right hand side is, La Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandria de Cartagena de Indias.

Below is The Charleston Santa Teresa Hotel in Plaza Santa Teresa

The next two photos are of the Plaza San Pedro de Claver.

Evening strolls in Cartagena

Below is the Plaza de la Aduana – Custom’s Square

Colorful mochilas made by the Wayuu Native Americans from the Guajira region of Colombia. 

Houses in the three colors of the Colombia Flag, blue, red, and yellow.

We loved this beautiful and colorful city of Cartagena and we look forward to visiting again!






Te Mando Flores

Te Mando Flores Maya admires the flowers

Te Mando Flores
Maya admires the flowers

On this cold January day, “Te Mando Flores”, I send you flowers. That’s the title of an upbeat and uplifting song by Colombian Vallenato singer Fonseca. On this cold January day I share with you some of my Colombian heritage and introduce you to the warming sounds of the Vallenato.

The Vallenato music is from the northern coast of Colombia. It means, “from the valley”, specifically referring to the valley between the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Serranía de Perijá in the northeastern part of the country.

Vallenato is from the northeastern part of Colombia.

Vallenato is from the northeastern part of Colombia.

The Vallenato is one of Colombia’s most popular and representative genres of music. In my opinion, a party is not a party unless a Vallenato is played. Its origin has roots in Spanish minstrels and West African rhythms. The Vallenato originally played with an indigenous Gaita flute, a drum called a caja, and a percussion instrument called a guacharaca later added the European instruments of the guitar and accordion.

Symbols of Vallenato:  El Sombreo Vueltiao - The Turned Hat, The Accordion, the Caja, and the Guacharaca

Symbols of Vallenato:
El Sombreo Vueltiao – The Turned Hat, The Accordion, the Caja, and the Guacharaca

It was played by the farmers who traveled with their cattle throughout the region while providing entertainment and a means of story telling and communications between the villages. I often hear similarities between Vallenato and Cajun Zydeco. When I listen to contemporary West African music there is no denying the ancestral roots of these coastal Colombian tunes. Not only do I love the fact that Colombian music is a blend of many cultures, Vallenato in particular is going to make you want to DANCE. Those lively accordion songs and rhythms are guaranteed to take you out of any state of funk you may be in. In my case today, the January winter blues!

Visiting an island off of the the northern coast of my native country Colombia. Wearing the sombrero vueltiao and getting to know the local children.

2007 – Visiting an island off of the the northern coast of my native country Colombia. Wearing the traditional sombrero vueltiao and getting to know the local children.

I have very fond memories of listening to my first live Vallenato band. During my college years I went on an amazing expedition trip throughout Colombia with my best friend. The year was 1983. One of our many stops included Santa Marta located on the northern coast. It was there that I enjoyed my first “cerveza” ever while listening to live Vallenato music. The only reason we ordered beer was because it was cheaper than Coca-Cola. I remember a lot about that night: the place was an outdoor cafe, the lighting was golden, I felt so grown up drinking a beer, the beer tasted bitter but was o.k. (I had not quite acquired a taste for hops yet), the band played Vallenato on a stage at the front of the café, and had two female singers wearing identical yellow dresses singing away with gusto. We ended up calling the singers, “the screaming pestaña sisters”- “the screaming eye lash sisters”. I think the name came about mainly because they wore a lot of make up and not because their singing sounded like screaming. They probably were not even sisters but their identical outfits made them look like twins. We were two childhood friends, now in college, transitioning into adulthood, but still enjoying the laughter and giggles that we had shared since we were two years old. And mostly I remember thinking, “This music is awesome!”

So open up your favorite music-streaming app and look for Vallenato music. Look for Fonseca and Carlos Vives, both Colombian Latin Grammy winners. Try out songs by Fonseca: Te Mando Flores, Eres Mi Sueño, Gratitud, Ilusion, and Hace Tiempo. And by Carlos Vives try: El Cantor de Fonseca, La Gota Fria, El Amor de mi Tierra, Fruta Fresca, and Carito.

…. Let go and dance away in your kitchen, living room or office! It’s good for your heart and soul. You will feel so energized afterwards. I hope this music livens your day and your life as much as it does me. Baila conmigo… Dance with me!

2000 - Dancing with my children and dogs.

2000 – Dancing with my children and dogs.

Annual Colombian Festival of the Vallenato