It was springtime of 1948 when Gabriel Garcia Marquez arrived in Cartagena de Indias. A law student at the time, the 21-year-old youth could not have known that he would spend the brightest years of his life there. The walk in the shade of the Torre del Reloj was described by him as a “rebirth”. Such is the promise of this town in the Colombian Caribbean. It’s no small thing.
The visitor can begin the tour of the city with a visit to the plaza of the famous tower. There, the coconut lemonades of the Charleston Bar are eagerly consumed by tourists. The place also invites one to take a look at the little book stalls around the square – certainly overflowing with Gabo’s novels.
From there, the visitor can walk towards the monastery of Santa Clara. The building is emblematic in Of love and Other Demons, deserving a careful description in the prologue to the book. Today the building houses a five-star hotel – ideal for wealthier visitors.
Gabo’s Cartagena also includes the Santa Catalina de Alejandria Cathedral, where Fiorentino Ariza offers Fermina Daza his first love letter in Love in the Time of Cholera. Another destination that gains life in Garcia Marquez’s verses is the Temple of Santo Domingo – famous for the legend of the tower twisted by the devil, mentioned in the novelist’s biography.
The afternoon will end pleasantly with a visit at sundown to the house of the Marquess of Valdehojos. This place sheltered Simon Bolivar, the Liberator, as told in The General in his Labyrinth – the only book in Marquez’s work in which there is an explicit reference to Cartagena.
In the evening, a stop at the Barzuto Social Club will be a bonus. Although it isn’t part of the traditional tour of visitors who wish to experience Gabo’s Cartagena, the bar was frequented by the novelist – and it can provide an experience of Colombian intellectuals and authors. A great tip for the end of an adventurous day in the city that emanates the spirit of Garcia Marquez.