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Founded in 1533, Cartagena de Indias gained fame after the mid-16th century when great fleets stopped annually to take on gold and other products of northern South America for convoy to Spain. The city became a center for inquisition and a major slave market.

Based on historical accounts, a minimum of 487 slave ships were known to have arrived in Cartagena between 1573 and 1640, disembarking at least 78,000 enslaved Africans in the city to replace the Indigenous population that was rapidly decreasing due to colonialism and genocide. 

In 1619, about 30 enslaved Africans led by Domingo Bioho escaped and founded a town close to Cartagena called Palenque de San Basillo which became the first "free town" in the Americas. Today Palenque has a population of 3,500 Afro-Colombians who are descendants of the enslaved Africans brought by the Europeans during the colonization of the Americas. They have their own language called Palenquero which is a Spanish-based creole language believed to be a mixture of Kikongo (language spoken in Central Africa), Spanish, French, and Portuguese.


In 2005, Palenque de San Basillo was proclaimed Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) --- a NATO agency organized to promote world peace and security through international cooperation in education,, arts, sciences, and culture. 


The Walled City and Getsamani

Palenque means "walled city" and Palenque San Basillo is only one of many walled communities that were founded by escaped slaves. 

But Colombia is best known for a more well known ""walled city" located in the historic old town section of Cartagena surrounded by 11 kilometers of defensive walls built between 1614 and 1796 to protect the city from continual pirate attacks.  The wall was built to protect the city but it also protected the rich and left the poor Indigenous and African slaves outside the walls to fend for themselves. 

With the wall in position, it forced the Indigenous and slaves to inhabit a neighborhood next door founding the first black neighborhood of Cartagena called Getsamani -- now an international sensation and tourist must visit destination filled with art, murals, colorful architecture, and culture. Getsamani was the neighborhood home to servants catering to the upper class but now one of Colombia's most famous neighborhoods.

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