I can’t get over how beautiful the city is. Some newly arrived Yanks asked me what highlights Cartagena had to offer any my reply was “the highlight IS the city.” You can simply wander around finding little fruit carts with exotic bevarages and snacks or just lounge in the shade of the city walls. While there is a fair amount of pushers and prostitution at night, one can defer unwanted attention with a “no gracias” or shameful finger wag (of which I prefer the latter). We set off to the Torture Museum, which is located in the same building where many of the Inquisitions between the 16th and 18th centuries. Many torture devices were on display, as well as more contemporary exhibits demonstrating some social injustices still perpetrated by the Catholic Church.
On our way back, I noticed a big exhibition in the main square, with young attractive folks in red jeans and fedoras offering information about Colombia to many of the foreigners who had just disembarked from a cruise ship. This was “Te Amo Colombia,” a Public Diplomacy project by the Colombian government. Each of the exhibits was made to look like a heart, showcasing various aspects of Colombian culture, such as celebrities (Shakira, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Juanes) and some you may not have known are Colombian (John Leguizamo, Edgar Renteria).
Aside from music there were other highlights of Colombian culture, such as dance, food and biodiversity. The exhibits utilized a high level of interactivity to showcase the mix of African, European and Indigenous cultures. Of particular interest was a series of blocks of travelors sharing their personal experiences in visiting Colombia:
We chatted for a while with Martín, one of the information people. PD folks will be happy to know that the organization funding the “Te Amo Colombia” is actually an autonomous body devoted to Colombian Public Diplomacy, much like the now-defunct USIA.The organization sends some Colombians abroad as Cultural Ambassadors, but oddly only to Germany and parts of Europe right now. Martín also talked about how the project in Cartagena was coming to an end in two weeks as the I gave him my USC Annenberg card and told him to check it out, maybe they’ll get it. They are off to a good start anyways. Check out the Te Amo Colombia Facebook Page here.