As the world began to open back up, I knew that I wanted to travel to a place where people looked like me. I chose Colombia for the culture, food, and history.
Boy-oh-boy it did not disappoint.
The history of the Afro-Colombian people is rich and dates back to the early 1600’s. Africans were taken from Liberia, Ghana and the Ivory Coast by the Spaniards.
Slaves were forced to work the gold-mines, sugar cane plantations, and were instrumental in building the wall that surrounds the “Old City!”
Did you know that the town of Palenque was the first “free” town in the Americas founded by former slaves? The language spoken is a Spanish-based creole.
When you vacation in Cartagena you’ll spot Palenquera women dressed in bright costumes, balancing bowls of fruit atop their heads on any street throughout the Old City.
Before the modern era, these women would trek into Cartagena everyday loaded with fruit harvested from trees surrounding their native Palenque (village). They carried this bounty on top of their heads in hand-woven baskets, selling it for a few coins here and there to support their families back home. They were so common that their bright dresses and smiling faces became an integral part of the very fabric of the city.
Modern Palenqueras still sell fruit (in bowls now, not baskets) and it’s very inexpensive. Roughly 5,000 Colombian pesos ($1.30 US).
I tried balancing the bowl atop my head and learned very quickly I was not cut out for that role! It truly does take a certain skill set and the bowl is very heavy.
It is customary to tip the women $10,000 Colombian pesos ($2.60) per Palenquera for taking photos with you.
Cartagena is divided into levels, with Level one, Tierra Bomba, being the poorest; and level six, Bocagrande (“big mouth”), being the wealthiest. Sixty percent of the world’s emeralds are exported from Cartagena! The population in Cartagena is 1.5 million and 35% black.
Cartagena truly stole my heart and provided the three things I’m always in search of in a vacation: culture, food, and history!
Make sure to put Colombia on your list of places to visit. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
As always, remember…
Being a lady never goes out of style!