How can you spend 24 hours in Black-owned Cartagena?
A trip to Colombia isn’t complete without visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cartagena.
Cartagena is a port city located on the northern coast of Colombia, facing the stunning Caribbean Sea. Known for its pristine beaches, historic landmarks, Caribbean nightlife, and mouthwatering cuisine, Cartagena is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Gone are the days when Cartagena was known for being the capital of a drug cartel — today, the city is a thriving tourism hotspot.
Another reason to visit Cartagena is its unique and vibrant blend of cultures. Cartagena was once the largest slave port in the Americas, which created an interesting Afro-Colombian mix of traditions and culture in the city.
African influences run deep throughout Cartagena. So while you’re there be sure to invest your time exploring the Black pride and magic of the city. From hotels to landmarks, Cartagena has its own unique flavor — and its unique infusion of African culture has made it a must-visit for Black travelers all over the world.
Here are some ways to embrace the Black culture prevalent in this Latin American city — and how to spend 24 hours in Black-owned Cartagena.
Stay at Downtown Cartagena’s “First Black-Owned Hotel”
As Travel Noire previously reported, Shawn Roseburgh is the owner of Casa Noir—reportedly the first and only Black-owned hotel in downtown Cartagena. The Harlem native opened the hotel after falling in love with the vibrant city of Cartagena, where he wanted to bring more Black culture and heritage to the city.
During your stay make sure to check out Roseburgh’s mural celebrating Cartagena’s African roots. He commissioned local artists to create the stunning mural and he now has a website for selling and promoting local artists and their work.
Take a Tour With a Local Black-Owned Tour Company
Experience Cartagena the authentic way with the guidance of experienced tour guides. Taking a Black-owned tour while in this Colombian city is a great way to learn about and appreciate Cartegena’s African history and culture.
One of the more popular tour guide experiences is with the Black-owned travel agency, Experience the Real Cartagena. Alex Rocha, the owner of Experience the Real Cartagena, told Travel Noire that he launched the company after realizing that many locals and tourists didn’t know about Black culture in Colombia.
With nine different tours around the city, Experience the Real Cartagena has something to offer every traveler looking for a genuine way to spend time in Cartagena.
Visit the Town Founded by Escaped Enslaved People
Palenque de San Basilio is a town located about an hour from Cartagena that was founded by escaped slaves in the 17th century. Palenque’s historical roots have made it a unique destination full of African culture, traditions, music, art, food, and more.
Walk the streets of Palenque and take in the vibrant colors of the city’s buildings as well as the brightly-patterned clothing worn by the locals. Indulge your senses in the interesting language of Palenque, which consists of several influences like French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, and African Bantu languages. And while fewer than half of residents actually still speak Palenquero, there are efforts to preserve the language.
Palenque was even named one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO because of Palenquero and the village’s one-of-a-kind culture.
Buy Tropical Treats From the Palenqueras
While in Palenque, you must purchase something from the town’s palenqueras. These are the women you’ll see balancing bowls of fruit, sweets, and other goods on their heads. It’s not hard to spot these women as they’re often dressed in colorful skirts, dresses, and shawls.
Palenqueras are an important fixture of Colombia and they work hard to preserve and share their history and culture with locals and visitors alike. Some local treats to look out for include fresh fruits, dried fruits, sugar cane, and cakes.
Take an Afro-Colombian Drum Workshop
Music and dance run through the soul of Cartagena. You’re bound to hear the sounds of instruments as you stroll the streets of the city, most notably the beat of a drum will captivate your senses. Drums are a huge part of Afro-Colombian culture, so what better way to get the full experience than by taking a drum workshop? You can find classes and tours all over Cartagena promising to teach you the rhythm and sounds of Afro-Colombian music.
And if you can swing it, try to visit in October when the San Basilio de Palenque Drum Festival takes place. Also known as the Festival de Tambores, the event is held over a few days and celebrates the beauty of the region through live music, dancing, food, and cultural workshops.