Single storey houses in bright colours
Colombia,  Monday walks,  Photographing Public Art,  Street art,  Street photography,  Sunday Stills

A wander through Getsemani

Historically, Getsemani is the area of Cartagena where African slaves lived during colonial times. The Spanish had imported them (after they’d killed off most of the native population) to build their fortifications: the city walls and the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Later they were used as servants and on further labour projects, such as road building. They were housed here, outside the city walls, away from the grand homes of the soldiers and merchants who controlled it.

Subsequently the area became home to the city’s artisan workers, including freed slaves. They included carpenters, masons, shipbuilders and blacksmiths. It was one of the latter, Pedro Romero, who led Getsemani’s largely black working class population in a militia group that supported Cartagena’s bid for independence from Spain.  On November 11, 1811 the city council voted in favour of a declaration of independence. This asserted the province of Cartagena to be a free and sovereign state, dissolving all ties between it and the Spanish crown.

Visiting Getsemani

To get here from the old centre, where we were staying, we had to pass through the Parque Centenario. This small park is home to a troop of monkeys and a family of three-toed sloths. We didn’t spot any monkeys on our way through but did spot a sloth. Actually, that wasn’t difficult to find; it’s simply a matter of finding other tourists staring up into a tree! I shared a photo of him (her?!) in one of my postcards from this trip.

For many years this was a no-go area for tourists, a hub of gun violence and crime. Indeed, when we expressed a desire to visit we were warned to be careful by the guide who had taken us on a tour of the fort and old city the previous day. But the warnings are largely out-of-date, as today’s Getsemani is a vibrant arty community welcoming to visitors.

Getsemani may lie just outside the Centro Historico but don’t let that fool you. Its streets are just as historic and many of its buildings just as beautiful. They are on the whole, however, smaller. Instead of colonial mansions, here there are more modest single storey houses. And street art; lots of street art!  

Narrow street with brightly coloured umbrellas strung above it
A street in Getsemani

I’d read that Calle de la Sierpe was a particularly good road for street art, so we sought that out and started along it. The first couple of pieces we found were a little rough, but for most of its length there was a lot to admire and photograph. Traditionally the murals here celebrate the people of the quarter, or highlight social issues such as the neighbourhood’s fight against gentrification, racism, and treatment of the indigenous population. Famous figures also appear including Gabriel García Márquez.

We spent a lot of time strolling and taking photos, with the streets gradually getting busier and hotter. Mid-morning we found a great little café with cool décor, nicely air-conditioned and serving excellent coffee. It gave a further lie to the stories of Getsemani as a no-go area for tourists!

Further along Calle de la Sierpe we came to the Plaza de la Trinidad. I was disappointed to find the church locked and too much in the shade for decent photos. But there were plenty of other photo opportunities in the vicinity.

We continued along in the same direction, now called simply Calle 29, still with lots of colour and more street art.

Retracing our steps along Calle de la Sierpe we turned off to explore one of the side streets, Calle San Antonio. There we found an artist at work, displays of paintings, more street art – and a boy with a pet tortoise!

It was getting very hot by now, and also busy, the narrow pavements often blocked with selfie-takers and those searching for the perfect spot for an Instagram pose. It was time, we felt, to leave Getsemani to these newly-arrived visitors.

Parque Centurio

On the way back through the park we spotted another sloth (or maybe the same one in a different tree!) And thanks to some helpful local lads, this time we found some of the monkeys. A group of young English guys were feeding them with bits of mango. I’m not sure how advisable that is, but it did enable me to get some decent photos!

I’m triple-dipping here, linking to three challenges. Terri knows that my answer to ‘I’d rather be …’ will always be ‘… travelling’! And I know Natalie will appreciate the street art here for the Photographing Public Art challenge, while Jo should enjoy the Monday Walk.

I visited Cartagena in 2023

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