Day 1 in Cartagena, Colombia Continued: The Walled City and Iglesia de San Pedro Claver

After seeing Las Bóledas, we drove further into the Walled CIty. One of the first things we noticed was that many houses had little knobs on the corners of their roofs. Years ago, if you were Catholic, you would put these knobs on your roof for witches to fly over your house. If you didn’t have it on your roof, it meant that you were not Catholic and since you were most probably considered a witch, you were taken into the inquisition.

Every year on September 26th, there is a competition to see who has the nicest balcony in the Walled City. For this reason, almost every house we saw had beautiful gardens on their balcony, and the reason being, the winner of the competition doesn’t have to pay taxes for an entire year. If you were to buy a new house in the Walled City, you must restore it or the government can seize it and sell it to someone willing to make the necessary renovations.

The Inquisition took place here in Cartagena during 1610 and lasted for 201 years. If you were not Catholic, you were considered heretic and would be brought to the building pictured below where you would either be tortured or killed. Either way, all women were brought here and were weighed because you could only weigh a certain amount depending on your height. If you were deemed “too skinny,” you were considered to be a witch with the capability of flying. If you were deemed “too fat,” you were considered to have the devil in you. Additionally, if a woman thought her husband was cheating on him, she could go to someone she thought was a witch and ask her to do a prayer for the husband to be faithful. If the husband was in fact faithful, the woman would be brought in and punished by having her breasts removed. If the husband’s behavior didn’t change after the prayer, it was assumed that he was still unfaithful and he would be brought in and punished in the form of having his testicles removed.

As we continued walking, we came across what translates to “Bitterness Street.” This street received its name because during the inquisition, two men were being walked toward their hanging and as they reached the end of the road, one turned to the other and said, “This should be called Bitterness Street.” Apparently, ever since then, the name remained.

The next building we saw was one in which the Spaniards would use as the main building to bring all of their merchandise into the Walled City. The square itself is called Custom Square because this building is where customs once was. Hangings during the Inquisition took place here as well.

The last sight we saw as we walked around was the Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, or the San Pedro Claver Church, started by a Jesuit priest who helped the cause of the African slaves. He was called the Patron Saint of Slaves because he dedicated his life to helping the slaves. This is the only church in Cartagena with indoor balconies, and back in the day, the rich people would sit upstairs and the poor sat downstairs.

As the evening tour of the Walled City concluded, my mother, sister, brother, and I ate dinner in at Porton de San Sebastian, which is a restaurant that has a beautiful story behind it. Before owning her own restaurant, the owner would cook meals and give them to local workers in the city who didn’t have much money as a token of her appreciation. Someone wrote about this quality of this woman’s food and the premise behind what she was doing, and eventually, the writer’s review helped build up enough of a reputation for her to open her own restaurant. When she did open her own restaurant, she continued her tradition by closing her restaurant off one hour each weekday during lunch hours for local workers. The food was incredible and knowing the story behind the restaurant and its owner made the meal that much more enjoyable.

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