As we continued with the city tour of Cartagena, our next stop was El Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, which took more than 130 years of construction, and was finally completed in 1657. It is all made by hand and it was built from the top to the bottom by African slaves who were brought to Colombia. As you might notice, the walls are inclined and not straight because if a cannon were to hit the walls, it would not be able to go through it.
Throughout the fortress, there are small tunnels because years ago, the Spaniards were small and were able to enter the tunnels and run through them. The British and French were tall though, so they had to duck their heads and were not able to dedicate their complete concentration to running since they had to worry about not hitting the top of the tunnels. There are also various cabins that can be found throughout the tunnels where individuals would hide, and if they didn’t have a password to enter, they would be killed.
The only person to actually live in the fortress years ago was the leader of the army. Everyone else lived in what was called the walled city (since the city was walled off from pirates as mentioned in a previous post), and when enemies arrived, someone was in charge of ringing a bell, and when it sounded, soldiers would go running up the fortress. As we made our way to the top of the fortress, it began continuously pouring rain. After waiting for nearly 40 minutes, our group decided to walk down the fortress in the rain and go back to the bus. By the time we got onto the bus, we were soaking wet, and of course, the rain stopped within minutes. After this downpour, floods filled some of the streets due to the rain, and we were told that by 2017, the sea level will rise nearly feet due to poor drainage throughout the city.
At the bottom of the fortress, there is a statue commemorating Blas de Lezo who was once known as “Patapalo” or “Pegleg” and eventually as “Mediohombre” or “Half-Man” due to the numerous injuries he suffered during his time in the military. In the statue, “The man is brandishing a sword in his left arm, because he lost his right arm in the Battle of Barcelona; minus one leg lost in the Battle of Gibraltar; and wearing an eye patch covering his left eye lost in the Battle of Toulon. This same man lost his life in the Battle for Cartagena, the last of his 23 campaigns. This man is Don Blas de Lezo” (http://www.cartagenainfo.net/glenndavid/blasdelezo.html).
After drying off at the hotel and changing our clothes, we got back onto the bus made our way towards Las Bóvedas. Las Bóvedas, also known as “The Vaults” were built as dungeons and consists of 23 dungeons which were used to hold ammunition and at one point, prisoners. These dungeons were the last thing built by the Spaniards to close off the walled city. Las Bóvedas currently consists of shops, and it is where many tourists can be found purchasing locally hand-made items goods and artwork.