The Colombian Caribbean

Trip Start Aug 18, 2005
Trip End Jan 30, 2006

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Friday, January 27, 2006

One final and uneventful bus trip: Cali to Cartagena. The twenty-four hours flew by because of my hangover and the general atrophy that attacks my body from time to time. No problem. I must have slept for at least fifteen hours, which surprised even me. We got to Cartagena at about 10:00 in the morning and caught a cab to our hostel. Well, Cartagena blew me away immediately. After thoroughly enjoying my time in norther Brasil, I have been anxious to experience anything similar, and the lifestyle in Cartagena came pretty close. It was hot, so people wore very little clothing. I really enjoy people working with no shirts on. The streets were small and there was very much a street culture that had a life of its own. I should say that the street culture had little to do with merchants; it was mostly just where people hung out. Talking on the corner, friends running into each other, lots of pedestrians. Cartagena is one of the oldest cities in the Americas. It was founded in 1533, and was the principle northern port for south America. The importance placed on it led quite a few pirate attacks. One of the most notable ones was led by Sir Francis Drake. I had a vague knowledge of him before this trip, but I have heard his name so many times in different port cities. Even in the Cerro Rico mine in Potosė here was a little statue of him. Anyway, in this notable attack, a ship was sunk which is supposedly still at the bottom of the sea, and also allegedly holds over US $3 Billion inside of it. After repeated attacks the Spanish built a fort around the city for protection, and constructed a large castle overlooking the bay. Two hundred years later it was complete. Although now the design lacks any utility, it serves as a unique appearance for the city. I am not sure how the neighborhoods are divided. I wanted to call the walled city the old city, and our neighborhood the new city, but they were both so old that my idea sounded quite stupid and didn´t clarify anything. Our time there was simple enough. I was still with the Canadian and New Zealander. All three of us were pressed for time and were anxious to move on to our next destination. During the day we explored the city, went to the castle, and walked along the waterfront. Although the city sits on the coast there are no beaches. Our evenings were spent playing cards in a park where they sold beer and shrimp cocktails, an odd combination. There were about five vendors that all sold the same thing, and I never understood why they were so intent on selling shrimp cocktails. In order to get your attention they would either yell at you or hiss at you. I got a little insight to the macho behavior of the men while I was in Cartagena. I have seen machismo in every single city that I have been in, but have had a hard time understanding it even though it was something that we went over in my Latin American Studies classes. So there will be a number of men harassing a female. The numbers aren`t important, as it can occur with one man and one girl, or two men and one girl, or one man and two girls, and so on. My thought came to me after the same hooker had harassed me twice in a thirty minute period. She walked by once, saying: Very nice! And the next time: Nice! Also, the previous night I had been hissed at by a hooker, and whether or not it was the same one, I am not sure. But the idea that I got was that the behavior of the men often times resembled the behavior of the female hookers. The blatant, in-your-face offer for coital relations. Maybe I am grouping all of the men into this all-encompassing umbrella, but this harassment is out of control. The best example I can give of how prevalent it is in Latin American culture is this: the horns (on buses and cars) have three types. The first types is the traditional horn. The second type is a high beep that usually given as a greeting to passing buses. And the third, and most ridiculous, is not even a horn at all. It is the typical wolf-whistle that is directed to women as a cat-call. I am not sure if this horn is factory made or if it is put on afterwards, but it is very popular all over the continent. Whoever thought of it and makes these must be a very rich man (or woman).
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