Cartagena Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by JessieLang
  • Local Customs
    by JessieLang
  • Local Customs
    by JessieLang

Best Rated Local Customs in Cartagena

  • mircaskirca's Profile Photo

    Palenqueras - Traditional Fruit Vendors

    by mircaskirca Updated Nov 12, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    3 more images

    A great variety of tropical fruits can be tasted in Cartagena, including sweet mango, papaya, pineapple, passion fruit, guava and bananas, which are sold by the Palenqueras, the iconic fruit vendors that carry bowls of local fruits balanced on their heads up and down the beaches and through the city streets. They also sell cocadas (sticky balls made with fresh grated coconut held together with caramelized sugar) but most commonly fruits. Their fruit salads are made in a minute and are most delicious and very refreshing.

    Centuries ago, escaped slaves built isolated settlements in the jungles that surround Cartagena, once Colombia's main port for incoming slaves. Palenqueros are descendants of enslaved Africans from the settlement of
    Palenque de San Basilio, a village just over an hour from Cartagena, which have preserved many of the customs of their African ancestors.

    Every day colourfully dressed Palenquera women commute to Cartagena to sell fruit and candies. Palenquera became a cultural icon of the city. You can find them in the form of ceramic figurines that line souvenir shop shelves. Images of these women are replicated on postcards, brochures, coffee mugs and other souvenir items throughout the city.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • mircaskirca's Profile Photo

    Mapalé - Traditional Afro-Colombian Dance

    by mircaskirca Updated Nov 1, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    mapal�� dancers at one of Cartagena's plazas
    4 more images

    Dance is very important to Colombians. Most of the dances you will see in coastal Colombia are strongly influenced or even originate from Africa. Mapalé is a traditional dance brought to Colombia by enslaved African people from the gulf of Guinea during the colonization period. Although native to the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the Mapalé retains its true African rhythms.

    The sound of drums, clapping of hands and repeating 'mapaleee, mapaleee, mapaleee' accompany the dancers in their rhythmic and sometimes acrobatic movements. They coordinate their hands and feet in swift motions, swaying their hips back and forth and side to side. The man's flirtatious movements are meant to attract his partner in while the woman responds with sensual swinging of her body.

    The dance is named after the mapalé fish, whose movement resembles the dance and was often used in the cooking of the area. Fishermen would perform this dance after a good fishing day and celebrate it with food, music and dance.

    The Mapalé dance can be seen in Cartagena every day, especially in the evening. You'll often see performers in their costumes (which they change for every dance) at plazas, such as Plaza de Bolivar, Plaza de Santo Domingo and Plaza de los Coches, dancing to a group of drummers with people gathering around and watch.

    Have a look at the video.

    Related to:
    • Music
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • mircaskirca's Profile Photo

    Horse Drawn Carriage

    by mircaskirca Updated Oct 29, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    4 more images

    Picture yourself touring Cartagena in a comfortable, nostalgic horse drawn carriage. History comes alive as your driver/guide takes you back almost 500 years in time! The city's famous horse drawn carriages operate around the historical centre after 5pm. Ask for a general tour or give them a specific drop-of point for around 30.000 COP. The tours usually take about one hour. The carriages are small in size and can accommodate up to three people. Tours are sold by the carriage.

    Cartagena's old walled city takes on romantic ambience after dark. Flower-filled balconies glow in the soft light spilling from colonial mansions and well-placed lights illuminate old squares, cathedrals, government buildings, restauratns and bars.

    The carriage ride will take you through the narrow streets, passing the restored colonial homes as well as through some of the city's fabled plazas, including Plaza de Santo Domingo (site of a large bronze Fernando Botero statue of a reclining nude), Plaza de los Coches (site of the Clock Tower), Plaza de la Aduana, Plaza San Pedro Clavar (site of the San Pedro Clavar Church and Convent) and Plaza de Bolivar (site of the Inquisition Palace, the Cartagena Cathedral and the Gold Museum).

    Related to:
    • Luxury Travel
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • mircaskirca's Profile Photo

    Champeta - Afro-Colombian Music from Cartagena

    by mircaskirca Updated Oct 30, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    life music at one of Cartagena's plazas
    1 more image

    Champeta Criolla, also known as terapia criolla (creole therapy) is an Afro-Colombian musical genre and dance from Cartagena and the surrounding Bolívar department. The champeta is a hybrid style made up of the rhythms of the Caribbean, Cumbia, Soca, Calypso and Reggae, combined with the sounds of several countries of the African continent, such as Soukous, Mbaqanga, Highlife and Congolese rumba. It started in the poor barrios of Cartagena and has bonds with the culture of Palenque de San Basilio. Its birth was favoured by the Festivales de Música del Caribe (Caribbean Music Festivals) that were held in the past. In the 1960s, sailors coming from Africa arrived to Cartagena, bringing with them albums bought at various ports. Thanks to them coastal Caribbean Colombia had thousands of youth who dreamed of froming their own groups to play Soukous and Highlife in the streets.

    The first champeta pioneers appeared in the 1970s during the Golden Age of the Colombian hippy movement, such as Wganda Kenya and Fruko (one of the current salsa kings). A few years later Joe Arroyo arrived with his La Verdad orchestra. In fact, he's the king of Champeta, most of his inspiration comes from African music. However, the unarguable fathers of this music are the black Maroons (runaway slaves) from the village of Palenque de San Basilio. Champeta as a musical phenomenon began to be accepted by the remaining social classes of the city. Today champeta is part of the hits in the playlists of several radio stations in the Caribbean, with the musicians such as Viviano Torres, Justo Valdés & Son Palenque and others.

    Boasting 21 pulsating tracks drawn from the northern coast of Colombia, Palenque, Palenque! reveals a unique and fascinating story of how Afro-Colombian music developed from the 1970s onwards and how the local sound-systems in Cartagena and Barranquilla played such an important role in shaping the sound of the Colombian Champeta. Taken from this compilation, here's my favourite, the vibrant song Palenque by Abelardo Carbonó y su Conjunto.

    Related to:
    • Music
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • mircaskirca's Profile Photo

    Most Charming Colonial Architecture

    by mircaskirca Written Nov 17, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    4 more images

    The downtown area of Cartagena is very attractive with cobbled streets, leafy plazas and ancient churches. It has a wonderful mixture of architecture - colonial houses, old military constructions, and there are also republican and Italian style buildings. Some of the two- or three-storey colonial houses boasts enormous wooden doors. Many have charming wooden balconies looking onto the streets, covered with flowering vines and bougainvillea hanging over their sides.

    The houses are beautifully conserved and they seem unchanged by time. Even the buildings that have not yet undergone complete restoration have been given a facelift with decorative front doors and brightly painted exterior facades. Cartagena's beauty lies in its history. Horse drawn cariages ride the narrow streets, families and lovers dine at streetside restaurants. Taking a walk through the cobbled streets of the historical heart of the city is like a trip back in time. I very much enjoyed my strolls, they were the highlight of my visits of this most charming city.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Photography
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    The Cabalgata

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 7, 2010

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    did anyone say chaps?
    3 more images

    The Cabalgata is an equestrian parade that takes place around February 2nd. It is a fun-filled time in Cartagena and we happened upon it quite by accident. The woman who owned our hotel asked if we were going to the parade, obviously assuming we would say yes, and was astonished that we didn't know anything about it! She told us we absolutely must go since it was literally just up the street from our hotel. We spent the day as usual, taking photos early morning, snacking around, and resting up in the afternoon. When the sun was heading back down, we went back out to get some photos of the old fort just beyond the city's nearby walls. It was only a stone's throw away but once in the area, we saw that is pulsing with people awaiting the very parade we had been told about. Soon enough, the riders started to stream through the streets and much to our initial delight, they were quite able to make their horses “dance.” Some were much better than others and some horses more cooperative. It was a bit disconcerting when horses fought back and riders even more so in retaliation but overall it was certainly something to see and thankful for the recommendation.

    It was great light for these photos as well as the ones of the old fort which the parade puts you in perfect position for and at the ideal time, late afternoon!

    It comes right down Calle de la Media Luna

    Related to:
    • Birdwatching
    • Photography
    • Festivals

    Was this review helpful?

  • cadzand's Profile Photo

    Hungry ? Thursty ?

    by cadzand Updated Aug 10, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    coco frio
    4 more images

    The many friendly street vendors will help you out. They sell fresh and cool cocomilk, enormous ripe avocados, delicious lime or some slices of water melon and pineapple. Taste it ! Yummie.
    For 1 USD You can take a picture of the ladies in typical dress. The fruit basket they carry on their head is really very heavy. I guess +- 15 kilo.

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Cruise

    Was this review helpful?

  • whycolombia's Profile Photo

    Enjoy Cartagena.

    by whycolombia Written Apr 3, 2003

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    If you visit Cartaguena coast be sure that you´ll never forget this trip.
    You will find in all places very fun lovely people , that they like to invite you to their house and to drink ron and to listen typical music vallenato, cumbias, porros, puyas, etc.
    In this area of Colombia, there are many typical festivals, for example "Carnaval de Barranquilla", "Festival del Porro", "Festival Vallenato" and other. Their music is very rich in instruments and dancing.
    Is very common that you can dance and drink ron for many days and nights in this part of Colombia.
    At the beach the coastal women like to make many a little braids in the hair of tourists, that is very common in Cartagena.
    Ah.... don´t forget to eat "bollos", "name", ärepa e huevo" and other exquisite foods that you can´t get in other countries and if you go in a public bus you have to scream "parada,parada" to stop and get off.
    Everybody like to speak very loud and about your life...don´t worry , that is very common.
    Enjoy this tryp.

    Was this review helpful?

  • JessieLang's Profile Photo

    Photos for a fee

    by JessieLang Written Apr 5, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    If you encounter women in special regional costumes, this is how they earn a living. If you take their photo, or pose with them, they expect to be paid. (I consider it worth it--especially when they are as friendly and charming as this lady from the Palenque community.)

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Photography

    Was this review helpful?

  • JessieLang's Profile Photo

    Chiva Buses

    by JessieLang Written Apr 5, 2012

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    1 more image

    Chivas are party buses. Groups of people hire the bus and driver, and sometimes a band, and it’s a mobile party. It may drive from place to place, or go to one spot and park. One parked bus had a dressed-up skeleton on the hood, music blaring from a boom box, and so many people dancing in it that it rocked the bus.

    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Music

    Was this review helpful?

  • dbrener's Profile Photo

    Music, music, music!

    by dbrener Written Jul 3, 2005

    2 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Cartagena is the city of sound, wherever you go, you will hear vallenato playing. Their form of salsa with its exquisite sound will either annoy you completely or make you fall in love with the city even more. Expect it everywhere and get used to it! :) They even played it in the plane to Cartagena! :)

    Was this review helpful?

  • NELSONMAURVILLATE's Profile Photo

    look for people who lives in the city

    by NELSONMAURVILLATE Written Oct 19, 2007

    look for people who lives in the city and don't work in the tourist area, for example like i, i want to practice my english, if you need help, i will give you help here without pay money only to practice my english, i prefer people who are going to be for long time one month, two months or more

    Was this review helpful?

  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo

    Mapale dancers

    by call_me_rhia Written Aug 12, 2008
    mapale dancers
    4 more images

    Go and see the Mapale dancers in Cartagena. Mapale is an Afro-Colombian dance from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, danced at the sounds of drums and clapping of hands. Every day a group of young people, some as young as kids, dance for locals and foreigners in Plaza Bolivar.

    It's not an organized traditional dance show... it takes place spontaneously, though those dancers obviously don't do it for free. A hat will be passed around from time to time, and you can give as much or as little as you like.

    The Mapale dance, which takes its name from a fish, is a very sensual dance, with a lot of swift motions and swaying hips... flirtatious, too... and acrobatic. The dancers are excellent, and their costumes, which they change for every dance, very colourful.

    Was this review helpful?

  • call_me_rhia's Profile Photo

    The virgin del Carmen

    by call_me_rhia Written Aug 12, 2008
    virgin del Carmen, being paraded

    The virgin del Carmen is the patron saint of Cartagena and her day falls on 16 July... that day a statue of the Virgin is paradecaround the sreets of the old town and plenty of people come out to follow the procession or simply to see it.

    It's quite a sight to see, women holding candles and small children wearing cardboard gold-coloured crowns coloured on their heard. Friendly cartagena locals are even firendlier on that day, and were ravished to know that in the village in souther italy where we spend part of the summer, the virgin del carmen is celebrated, too.

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Cartagena

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

67 travelers online now

Comments

Cartagena Local Customs

Reviews and photos of Cartagena local customs posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Cartagena sightseeing.

View all Cartagena hotels