Cartagena Colores del Cielo by

Most of you know that I teach English here in Medellin.  I love teaching English, and I have some really bright students.  Although most of my students are educated and well informed it never ceases to amaze me how almost no one knows what holiday the country is celebrating.

Colombia has quite a few holidays, so every time we have a day off I ask students if they know what we are celebrating, and usually 90% of the class does not know what holiday it is, or the history behind it.

Today is Sunday November 16, 2014 and tomorrow, Monday, November 17 we have the day off.  This holiday is a very important holiday because it commemorates Cartagena’s declaration of independence from Spain on November 11, 1811.

In order to better understand Cartagena’s independence I researched its history.

Pre-Colombian Era

It is estimated that around 4,000 BC Cartagena and its surrounding areas were inhabited by various native people.  Cartagena is the site for the America’s oldest ceramic artifacts ever found.

Pedro de Heredia

Pedro de Heredia

Spanish Colonization

On June 1, 1533 Cartagena de Indias was founded by Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, in the former location of the indigenous Caribbean Calamarí village. The town was named after Cartagena, Spain, where most of Heredia’s sailors had resided.

he city began with 200 people in 1533. During the remainder of the 16th century there was rapid growth. A major factor was the gold in the tombs of the Sinú Culture.

After those tombs were completely plundered, the inhabitants began to scatter to the countryside and to establish themselves as farmers, and the population of the city decreased.

There were almost three centuries between Cartagena’s colonization in 1533 and its independence in 1811.  During that time Cartagena underwent many attacks by pirates and Spanish crown enemies, thus the creation of the walls surrounding the city.

German Gutiérrez de Piñeres

German Gutiérrez de Piñeres

Cartagena’s Independence

Cartagena was ruled by Spain for over 297 years.  On November 11, 1811 in the early morning hours a crowd led by German Gutiérrez de Piñeres gathered in the neighborhood of Getsemani to await the governments decision on Cartagena’s declaration of independence.  After a long wait the news came that the decision would be postponed.  The crowd turned into an angry mob, they marched to the Palacio de Gobierno, they took weapons from the Sala de Armas and pressured for the signing of the declaration of independence.

Though Cartagena was declared independent of the Spanish crown, it took 10 years to establish complete emancipation.

Cartagena faced internal political turmoil as well as a Spanish siege.

On August 20, 1815, Spanish navy general Pablo Morillo arrived to the Cartagena coast with his boat fleet.  Knowing that Cartagena was heavily fortified, he pulled a brilliant maneuver.  He positioned his boats stratigically along the Cartagena coast line imposing a blockade.  He did not allow any food, or products to come in or out of Cartagena.  The Cartagena patriots barricaded themselves within the city walls and waited.

After three months and 300 deaths from starvation and disease some of the Cartagena patriots fled, some stayed to fight.  On August 20, 1815 Morillo and his men came into the city, murdered more than 6,000 people, and took over the city.

Jose Padilla

Jose Padilla

It was not until June 24, 1821 when Colombian patriot general Jose Padilla broke the Spanish lines of communication and attacked the sleeping Spanish fleet at la Bahía de las Animas.  The attack started at midnight, it was bloody and the Spanish lost many soldiers.  The next day Padilla declared himself triumphant.

On October 10, 1821 the acting Spanish governor, Brigadier Torres y Velasco, handed the city over the patriots, this time for good.


Colombia’s independence is long and bloody.  November 11 is an important date because it was a precedent to all independence revolutions throughout South America.  This sense of revolution and bravery that the people from Cartagena displayed earned their city the nickname la “Ciudad Heroica” the “Heroic City.”

Researching Colombia’s independence history has motivated me to go visit Cartagena and learn more about this beautiful country’s rich and sometimes tragic history.  By learning our past we understand our present and avoid pitfalls in the future.

I hope that this blog post has brought you some insight on why we have November 11 off and why it is so important.  This by no means is the complete history, I encourage you to read more and learn more, it’s fascinating.


  • Wars of the Americas – A chronology of armed conflict in the western hemisphere, by David F. Marley
  • The Wars of Spanish American Independence 1808 – 29, by John Fletcher

About the writer – Andrew Macia

Andrew Macia ArrieroHello, my name is Andrew Macia and I am the founder of the Medellin Buzz.  I am an advanced level English teacher here in Medellin, and I also have a website development, and marketing company which I run from home.

My idea with the Medellin Buzz is to push those who are learning English and to integrate native speakers with non-native speakers.

I love living in Medellin and I love Colombia.  I want to give back to the community and this is the best way I know how.  Let’s practice English and Spanish and have a great time!

About the Medellin Buzz

The Medellin Buzz is lighthearted resource for English as a Second Language learners in Medellin, Colombia to practice with.  The Medellin Buzz is written in a way that is easy to understand.  If you do not understand something feel free to make comments below.

Cartagena de Indias Independence Act


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