©Wolfgang Kaehler

Mom’s Adventure Day 3 & 4

Cartagena, Colombia

Day 3

One of the benefits of traveling alone is that you come to appreciate your own company. I am enjoying wandering around the city, and today I decide to explore the small Modern Art Museum, a rustic building in the old town. I study the paintings and sculptures of Enrique Grau, a celebrated artist of Cartagena. In the center panel of his triptych the Virgin Mary floats in the heavens as a sky diver jumps from a biplane; in the next panel, the skydiver, guided by angels, sails down into a bull fighting ring. I’m not sure if there is bull fighting here, so I will need to ask my teacher.

Around the corner from my hotel Elmer and Victoria own a tiny shop. I stop and talk to Elmer. He wants to practice his English and I want to practice Spanish, so we switch back and forth. He is so eager to tell foreigners about his country because he is afraid that all we hear are the stories of drugs and violence. He explains to me about the different indigenous groups who make the woven bags and the molas he sells. The mochila bags, created by the Arhuco tribe of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, have brown, beige and grey geometric patterns and are made from sheep and goat wool.


Day 4

I go to mass at the Church of San Pedro Claver then visit the adjacent convento. Columbia, you may have guessed, is very Catholic. In the service, a youthful group plays songs including a tune from Godspell — all in Spanish of course. I couldn’t grasp too much of what the priest was saying, but I was able to read along in my pamphlet about the themes of equality and social justice. The grand baroque marble altar and the stained glass windows in the dome, set the stage for a spiritual moment. But the convento makes a greater impression: the furnishings and paintings tell the story of San Pedro Claver called “a slave of the slaves” because of his devotion to improving the lives of the African Caribbean slaves in the 1600s. With all the sordid events of the colonial period, including steeling gold from indigenous people and bringing slaves from Afica, Claver’s story was a bit comforting.


San Pedro Claver Monument

Back at my hotel,

I sit in the delightful courtyard listening to a fellow from a nearby balcony playing guitar. Some gorgeous yellow birds are roosting in a palm and singing exuberantly. I begin to write about Cartagena for our World Heritage Site app.

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