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Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of the Indies or Cartagena of the West Indies, in English) (Spanish pronunciation: [kartaˈxena ðe ˈindjas], English: /ˌkɑrtəˈheɪnə deɪ ˈɪndiəs/ or hypercorrected English: /ˌkɑrtəˈheɪnjə/ as if "Cartageña"), is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department. The city had a population of 892,545 as of the 2005 census, making it the fifth-largest city in Colombia and giving the Cartagena urban area the status of fifth-largest urban area in Colombia. Cartagena is a centre of economic activity in the Caribbean, as well a popular tourist destination.
Activity and development of the Cartagena region is dated back to 4000 B.C. around Cartagena Bay by varying cultures of indigenous peoples. The Spanish colonial city was founded on June 1, 1533 and named after Cartagena, Spain. Cartagena served a key role in the development of the region during the Spanish eras; it was a center of political and economic activity due to the presence of royalty and wealthy viceroys. In 1984, Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cartagena faces the Caribbean Sea to the west. To the south is the Cartagena Bay, which has two entrances: Bocachica (Small Mouth) in the south, and Bocagrande (Big Mouth) in the north.
The Downtown area of Cartagena has varied architecture, mainly a colonial style, but republican and Italian style buildings, such as the Cathedral's bell tower, can be seen.
The official entrance to downtown Puerta del Reloj (Clock Gate), which comes out onto Plaza de los Coches (Square of the Carriages). A few steps farther is the Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square), next to the mayor's office. Nearby is San Pedro Claver Square and the church also named for San Pedro, as well as the Museum of Modern Art.
Nearby is the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolívar's Square) and the Palace of the Inquisition. Plaza de Bolivar (formerly known as Plaza de Inquisicion) is essentially a small park with a statue of Simón Bolívar in the center. This plaza is surrounded by some of the city's most elegant, colonial buildings, which have lovely balconies. Shaded outdoor cafes line the street. The Office of Historical Archives devoted to Cartagena's history is not far away. Next to the archives is the Government Palace, the office building of the Governor of the Department of Bolivar. Across from the palace is the Cathedral of Cartagena, which dates back to the 16th century.
Another religious building of significance is the restored Santo Domingo Church in front of Plaza Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Square). The square is home to the sculpture Mujer Reclinada ("Reclining Woman"), a gift from the renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Also of note is the Tcherassi Hotel, a 250 year old colonial mansion renovated by designer Silvia Tcherassi.
Somewhat removed is the Augustinian Fathers Convent and the University of Cartagena. This university is a center of higher education opened to the public in the late 19th century. The Claustro de Santa Teresa (Saint Theresa Cloister), which has been remodeled and has become a hotel is operated by Charleston Hotels. It has its own square, protected by the San Francisco Bastion.
A 20-minute walk from downtown is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, located in el Pie de la Popa (another neighborhood), the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies. The original fort was constructed between 1639 and 1657 on top of San Lazaro Hill. In 1762 extensive expansion was undertaken, and the result is the current bastion. Numerous attempts to storm the fort were mounted, but it was never penetrated. An extensive system of tunnels is connected underground to distribute provisions and facilitate evacuation. The tunnels were all constructed in such a way as to make it possible to hear footsteps of an approaching enemy. Some of the tunnels are open for viewing today.
Theatres and concert halls
Performing arts have always been a big part of Cartagena's cultural life. The first carnivals and western theaters that served in New Granada operated here, more precisely on today's Calle del Coliseo. This was an activity patronized by the Viceroy Manuel de Guirior and Antonio Caballero y Góngora, who, like their predecessors, spent most of the time of their mandates ruling in Cartagena de Indias.
Heredia Theatre: Opened in 1911, inspired by the Teatro Tacón of Havana, was designed by Jose Enrique Jaspe. After years of abandonment, it was reborn in the 1990s and continues to be a cultural center. It is located in Plazuela de La Merced 5.
Universidad de Cartagena Aula Maxima: Although in existence since the early 19th century, it is used mainly for debates which began in the late 1920s, and it still has that use today.
The city has registered more than 100 companies of theater and traditional or contemporary dancing and is regularly visited by ballet and opera companies. Many of these local theater and traditional companies have their own auditoriums, among them: Reculá del Ovejo House, Teatro Contemporaneo Cartagenero, Ekobios, and Colegio del Cuerpo.
Museums and galleries
City Museum Palace of the Inquisition, opened in the 1970s.
Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena *
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Region ** Latin America and the Caribbean
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO
World Heritage site
The port, the fortresses and the group of monuments of Cartagena were selected in 1984 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as significant to the heritage of the world, having the most extensive fortifications in South America. They are significant, too, for being located in a bay that is part of the Caribbean Sea. A system of zones divides the city into three neighborhoods: San Sebastian and Santa Catalina with the cathedral and many palaces where the wealthy lived and the main government buildings functioned; San Diego or Santo Toribio, where merchants and the middle class lived; and Getsemani, the suburban popular quarters