views updated May 23 2018


Cartagena, the northern province of the New Kingdom of Granada, whose capital, Cartagena de Indias, was the principal Spanish port and defense center on the northern Caribbean littoral.

Located on the Caribbean coast of modern-day Colombia in the Bolívar Department between the Magdalena and Sinú rivers and extending southward to the town of Mompós, Cartagena was an eminent colonial jurisdiction dominated by activity in the port of Cartagena de Indias. When the Spanish explorers Juan de la Cosa and Rodrigo de Bastidas first reconnoitered the area in 1502, they recognized the potential afforded by a large bay reminiscent of the bay at Cartagena, Spain. Cosa and others, however, did not return to the site until 1509.

As in 1502, they confronted Caramari, Turbaco, and other Indians who resisted the Spanish incursion. In a February 1510 battle, for example, Turbaco warriors killed Cosa and seventy others, dealing Spanish troops their worst defeat yet in the Caribbean conquest. Cosa's compatriot, Alonso de Ojeda, and recently arrived reinforcements commanded by Diego de Nicuesa successfully counterattacked, but they abandoned the field for territories farther south and west. Modern scholarship continues to examine the origins and cultural affinities of these Indians, but sixteenth-century Spaniards knew them to be stout fighters, skillful archers, and active merchants, trading salt, fish, and cotton hammocks for gold and clothing.

Not until 1533 did Spanish colonists, led by Pedro de Heredia, establish a permanent settlement at Cartagena. Because of continuing Indian hostility at Turbaco and the island of Tierra Bomba, upon their arrival, Heredia selected a deserted Caramari village site for his new town. Heredia's efforts paid off in great dividends for imperial Spain. Within the decade, Cartagena de Indias developed into a major imperial entrepôt for the shipment of American bullion to Spain as well as for slaves and manufactures intended for northern South American markets. In turn, this commerce energized economic life within the city itself.

Foreigners, too, recognized the significance of Cartagena de Indias and so sought to appropriate its wealth and deal Spain a military and political blow. French pirates sacked the city in 1544 and 1559. A decade later (1568), John Hawkins took the port, as did Francis Drake in 1586. French troops captured Cartagena in 1697. British forces twice besieged the port, in 1727 and 1741, the second time with a force of twenty thousand men and nearly two hundred ships under the command of Admiral Edward Vernon.

Because of the commercial and strategic prominence of the port, Spanish authorities ordered substantial fortifications for the city, raising there some of the best and most impressive colonial military architecture. Highlighted by walls eight feet thick and the looming fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, these defenses—constructed between 1560 and 1780—demonstrated royal resolve, declared imperial pretensions and power, and marked the colonial greatness of the port. The battlements remain even today a constant reminder of one of the most celebrated historical events in Colombian historiography: the defeat of Vernon's 1741 assault on the city. Aided by tropical disease, which devasted the English forces, and guided by Viceroy Sebastián de Eslava (1740–1749) and naval commander Blas de Lezo (1689–1741), the defenders withstood the British attacks and thus earned the port the appellation "heroic."

Cartagena de Indias was also an ecclesiastical and political hub, rivaled only in New Granada by Santa Fe de Bogotá. It was an episcopal see and possessed one of three American offices of the Inquisition (established in 1610), charged with responsibility for northern South America, Panama, and the Spanish Caribbean. It contained four monasteries, two convents, and the San Juan de Dios hospital. Moreover, one of the most famous Jesuit missionaries of the colonial period, Saint Pedro Claver, labored there among Africans between 1610 and 1654, when the city was a major slave distribution center for the Caribbean. Governors and treasury officials also served in Cartagena, and, in the eighteenth century, viceroys occasionally ruled from there.

The fame of Cartagena de Indias notwithstanding, more people lived in the provincial hinterlands than in the city, especially in times of foreign hostilities. Whereas in the eighteenth century, for example, the population of the port generally fluctuated between ten and sixteen thousand, as many as nine times that many people lived in the rest of the province. The commercial milieu that dominated port life also characterized activity in and around Mompós (founded 1537) and Tolú, two towns known for their contraband fairs and centrality in regional trade networks.

In the twenty-first century Cartagena, home to more than 800,000 residents (2002), remains the country's most important harbor. Despite bombings and violence in the early years of the decade related to country's civil war, Cartagena's beaches, cultural heritage sites, and colonial architecture draw increasing numbers of Colombian and international tourists each year.

See alsoIndigenous Peoples; Slavery: Spanish America.


For a representative sampling of works available in English, see James Nelson Goodsell, "Cartagena de Indias: Entrepôt for a New World (1533–1597)" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1966); Linda L. Greenow, Family, Household, and Home: A Microgeographic Analysis of Cartagena (New Granada) in 1777 (1976); and Lance R. Grahn, "Cartagena and Its Hinterland in the Eighteenth Century," in Atlantic Port Cities: Economy, Culture, and Society in the Atlantic World, 1650–1850, edited by Franklin W. Knight and Peggy K. Liss (1991), pp. 168-195. Essential, however, are these books in Spanish: Enrique Marco Dorta, Cartagena de Indias: Puerto y plaza fuerte (1960), which is exceptional in its survey of the military architecture of the port; Eduardo Lemaitre Román, Cartagena colonial (1973), a fine general history; Donaldo Bossa Herrazo's guide to the geography and place names of the city and province, Nomenclatur cartagenero (1981); and Orlando Fals-Borda's multivolume study of the provincial hinterlands of Cartagena, Historia doble de la costa, 4 vols. (1979–1986).

Ceballos Gómez, Diana Luz. Hechicería, brujería, e Inquisición en el Nuevo Reino de Granada: Un duelo de imaginarios. Bogotá: Editorial Universidad Nacional, 1994.

Conde Calderón, Jorge. Espacio, sociedad y conflictos en la provincia de Cartagena, 1740–1815. Barranquilla, Colombia: Fondo de Publicaciones de la Universidad del Atlántico, 1999.

Cunin, Elisabeth. Identidades a flor de piel: Lo "negro" entre apariencias y pertenencias: Categorías raciales y mestizaje en Cartagena (Colombia). Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 2003.

Helg, Aline. Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia, 1770–1835. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Navarrete, María Cristina. Prácticas religiosas de los negros en la colonia: Cartagena, siglo XVII. Santiago de Cali, Colombia: Universidad del Valle, Editorial Facultad de Humanidades, 1995.

Olsen, Margaret M. Slavery and Salvation in Colonial Cartagena de Indias. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2004.

Redondo Gómez, Maruja. Cartagena de Indias: Cinco siglos de evolución urbanística. Bogotá: Fundación Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Facultad de Arquitectura, 2004.

Rodríguez-Bobb, Arturo. Exclusión e integración del sujeto negro en Cartagena de Indias en perspectiva histórica. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2002.

Saldarriaga Roa, Alberto, et al. Restoring Architecture: The Work of Alvaro Barrera. Bogotá: Villegas Editores, 2003.

Solano Alonso, Jairo. Salud, cultura y sociedad: Cartagena de Índias, siglos XVI y XVII Barranquilla, Colombia: Universidad del Atlántico, 1998.

                                        Lance R. Grahn


views updated May 08 2018


CARTAGENA , Mediterranean port in Castile, S.E. Spain. Jewish settlement dates from the period of Roman rule in the Iberian Peninsula. The designation Cartageni or Cartigena appearing in the Talmud and Midrash was used to denote the whole of Spain. It appears in the midrashim, including the legend concerning the expedition of Alexander the Great (Lev. R. 27:1). The traditions concerning the Jewish community there undoubtedly fostered these legends. Detailed information about Cartagena Jewry becomes available after the conquest of the area by Castile in the 13th century. Sancho iv granted the bishop of Cartagena in 1290 an annual tithe from the Jewish taxes, this being confirmed by Ferdinand iv in 1310. Nothing is known of the fate of the Jews in Cartagena during the anti-Jewish rioting in Spain in 1391, but they were probably not spared. There are references to the community during the 15th century. In 1453 the tithes and customs dues of the bishopric were farmed by Don Symuel Aventuriel, and in 1462 by Don David aben Alfacar. The Cartagena community paid the sum of ten castellanos levied in 1485 to prosecute the war in Granada, and the same amount in 1489. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 Cartagena served as a port of embarkation for the exiles. A tribunal of the Inquisition was established in Cartagena in 1500, but little is known of its activities.


Baer, Spain, index; Baer, Urkunden, 2 (1936), index; H. Beinart, in: Estudios, 3 (1962), 135; Suárez Fernández, Documentos, index.

[Haim Beinart]


views updated May 17 2018

Cartagena Major seaport in se Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea. Founded in c.255 bc by the Carthaginians, the settlement later fell to the Romans. Moors captured it in the 8th century, but the Spanish regained it in the 13th century. In 1585, Francis Drake destroyed the city. It is the site of the medieval Castillo de la Concepción and a modern naval base. Industries: shipbuilding, lead, zinc, iron. Pop. (2000) 179,930.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Cartagena City and port in nw Colombia, on the Bay of Cartagena in the Caribbean Sea; capital of the department of Bolívar. It is the principal oil port of Colombia. There is a university (founded 1824). Industries: oil refining, sugar, tobacco, textiles, tourism. Pop. (2002 est.) 853,900.

About this article

Cartagena (Spain)

All Sources -
Updated Aug 13 2018 About content Print Topic