S.Marta – Cartagena Colombia January 16-21, 2020
The marina is welcoming, bright and swept by a persistent trade wind, the one that brought us here and that in the days to come will blow up to 56 knots in port; they say to be a rare phenomenon, however the 27 tons of Ariel with crosswind, almost detached the floating finger from the main pier, to the point that, helped by the men of the navy, we freed our “home” to the main pier with 7 long sturdy peaks , giving bottom to almost all the equipment that we carry with us. The reason lies in the superficiality with which the Colombians have chosen the moorings for the fleet, reserving us a place reserved for boats of much smaller tonnage. This apparently insignificant detail to introduce the soul of a still immature and young people to face the invasive and pressing Europeanization, the latest invasion of Colombia: the average tourist and the manager looking for business.
An immature country according to our parameters, where culture and civilization start from the moment when some brave Spanish navigator sailed over the Caribbean, around 1500, uncovering a tribal, indigenous life, made up of simple rituals, which lasted for millennia. Men’s life is too short to grasp the changes of an era, and it took a few generations to bring to light a land, all of South America, as rich as it is very poor. Santa Marta is the oldest town in South America, founded in 1525 and chosen as a base for the happy characteristic of its coasts, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada (5,500 meters – the highest mountain range so close to the sea -) with a particularly pleasant microclimate ( all year round there are 25 to 28 degrees) two seasons, summer, from November to April where it never rains, and winter, from May to October, where it rains a little every day. More than the microclimate, it was the knowledge of the Thyrona tribe that convinced the Spaniards to stay. Skilled goldsmiths used to adron their homes and each person with inlays and jewels of pure gold. So it was the gold mines that first unleashed the race to conquer. Skilled navigators and explorers, the Spaniards soon understood that going north towards Cuba,Puerto Rico and Haiti could hang up the winds that would bring them back to Europe, thus starting the dance of trade and business to and from Colombia. Sacred foundations that regulate our sailing trips even today, despite climate change. But it was not only gold that attracted the colonizers, but the discovery of coffee, cocoa, so-called “exotic” fruit, bananas, papaya, and last but not least the emerald mines, which for geological reasons still produce today the purest and brightest stone on the planet and coal. Apparently useless mountains hide in their hearts the black of coal, the yellow of gold and the green of the emerald. Fertile land in the heart and on the surface: medicinal plants were soon discovered, scopolamine, for example,but certainly the most famous and current cause of the drift in the world, the plant of coca.
The natives used to chew the leaves to ensure the strength to work, walk for a long time in the forest; they soon realized that the combination of an alkaline substance increased its effectiveness, since chewing the coca leaf alone is not enough to produce the effects of “cocaine”. The only alkaline substance that favored a minimal effect on the leaves is saliva, but they soon realized that a shell, the caracucha , which finely chopped and mixed with saliva creates a highly alkaline compound, capable of enhancing the effects of coca, making it so similar to the famous cocaine. Men could thus walk for hours and hours towards the mountains, feeding on the essentials and endure fatigue and fasting otherwise impossible to bear.
Then they found outCartagena, a little further south west, with geographical characteristics much more suited to navigators who had to anchor their ships in safe places. Cartagena has shallow waters but enough not to run aground the sailing ships, happy and safe natural ravines in all weather to constitute the largest natural port on the Caribbean coast of South America. Cartagena soon became the real commercial hub and supplanted Santa Marta. This is because on many occasions the sea conditions did not allow the Spanish sailing ships to sail home with full crates, and in Cartegena they could stay at anchor in total safety waiting for the favorable weather. We are around 1600, Cartagena is a Spanish colony, and Spanish still has everything today, from architecture to the typically Castilian language.Those ships, however, at anchor and the rumor spreading in the taverns, reached the ears of the French, Dutch and English pirates who in turn began ferocious raids to plunder what had already been plundered. The invasion of the invasion. Sir Francis Drake, the notorious pirate, managed to get the better of the Spaniards, but he gave up destroying Cartagena for an inestimable sum of money.
SINCE then, the Spanish-Colombians (then still friends) decided to rely on skilled European architects (and here we Italians come) to build the fort of San Felipe, today a tourist destination that leads the new invaders to discover its tunnels and the bizarre architectural vaults to defense, and to make the port inaccessible to pirates. There are in fact two natural entrances to the safe basin, the “boca grande” and the “boca cica”. An enterprising and ingenious Spaniard had an underwater wall built from the bottom up to 1 meter from the surface of the water, (still existing today) to make the passage of the “boca grande”, the most used by pirates, in fact inaccessible, being able to cannons aimed to defend the boca cica more easily. But the raids continued, and Cartagena always resisted and always rose again.Perhaps today it seems to succumb at times, really devastated by crazy tourism, by street vendors without control, by the gadget racket of the photo with the fake Colombian dressed in the colors of the flag, while on the horizon, in addition to the perennial mountains, metropolitan skyscrapers are born and huge cruise ships rush into the bay to contribute to the uncontrolled devastation.
Simon Bolivar, Venezuelan but shrewd politician and apparently in love with Colombia, decided to face the Spanish invasion of the time, we are over the middle of the 1700s, and became president of Colombia with the intention of founding Greater Colombia, uniting Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia itself, relying on self-love and individual freedom. In fact, they called him the Libertador, he who freed the Colombian people from the Spanish invaders, sending them back to their homes. He unified the flags of the three states, all in yellow, blue and red horizontal stripes, with small differences, a coat of arms in the center for Ecuador and a crown of stars for Venezuela, leaving however to Colombia the palm of the largest yellow stripe of the others to testify to its great wealth. He died in Santa Marta, devastated by TB, Syphilis and liver cirrhosis, at only 50 years; sad witnesses of a dissolute life, although guided by a great charisma. Every corner of the two cities bears the name of Simon Bolivar, while his bronze statues of him on horseback can be found in Paris, as in Prague, while squares and streets named after him are present in many Italian cities such as Milan and Rome.Today Colombia gives the idea of a confused country, in the throes of a frenzy that does not belong to it, while you see middle-aged barefoot gentlemen pushing insecure tricicles with a support surface and three Colombian coffee thermos … last message of resistance … ” QUIERES CAFE? “