Principal tourist destination on the Carribean coast of Colombia. Capital of the Bolívar Department. Current population of about 1.2 million.
At the time of the Spaniard's arrival, the area was mainly inhabited by the Calamarí, members of the "Karib" language family.
In 1501 Rodrigo de Bastidas disembarked nearby the present city's location. He named the bay "Bahía de Baru". Two years later, its name was changed to "Bay of Cartagena", since it had similarities with the Caratgenan landscape on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
The first settlement was founded by Pedro de Heredia in 1533. In order to distinguish it from the Spanish city of the same name, first "Cartagena de Poniente" was added to it (of the West) and later "Cartagena de Indias" (of the Indies).
The seaport rapidly developed into the most important trade and exchange center of Spain and its American colonies. It also became a major center for trading African slaves.
Due to Cartagena's wealth, it was continuously targeted by pirates. Buccaneers of legendary Sir Francis Drake ravaged it repeatedly in 1544, 1560 and 1586. Hence, a massive fortification - the greatest in South America - was built as protection and has been preserved to a large extent until today.
1741: The Battle of Cartagena was fought between the 186 ships strong English Armada commanded by Admiral Edward Vernon, and the defenders of the town lead by Don Blas de Lezo.
In the course of the fight for independence from Spanish colonial rule, Cartagena declared its autonomy in 1811, but was recaptured four years later. Only after the final victory of Simón Bolívar's armed forces over the Spaniards in the Battle of Boyacá, and the following foundation of the República de Gran Colombia, Cartagena could finally claim its full independence.
Cartagena was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.