Marco Forero’s A Brief History of Cartagena is a great and informative but easy to read overview of the history Cartagena, Colombia.  It offers a good summary of the major events of the city’s history and would make a great introduction to its history by those planning to visit or living here and wanting to learn a bit more.  Read on for a complete review of A Brief History of Cartagena by Marco Forero P.

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A Brief History of Cartagena by Marco Forero is, well, a brief history of Cartagena.  It’s a good overview history that is an accessible read for the history buff as well as the layman.

It covers the major events of Cartagena’s history, and despite its relatively shorter length, is very informative.

There is a short introduction on the indigenous past, discussing the indigenous cultures in the area around Cartagena before the Spanish conquest.

The chapter continues to cover the conquest itself, discussing the awful consequences for the indigenous cultures around what became Cartagena as well as most of the Caribbean coast.

The second chapter turns to the colonial era.  There’s a good overview of the city’s role in Spanish colonial trade networks, as well as the major attacks on the city such as Francis’s Drake’s 1586 sack of the city and Edward Vernon’s 1741 failed attack.  There is also a brief discussion of colonial society, including the role of slavery.  

*See also:  The Great Expedition:  Sir Francis Drake on the Spanish Main

The next chapter turns to the independence era.  There is a good discussion of the city’s Declaration of Independence, its resistance in the 1815 siege during Spanish reconquest, the Spanish occupation, the liberation of the city, and the debilitating consequences of independence.

The fourth chapter looks at Cartagena in it its long 19th century.  It was weakened from the wars of independence, was largely ignored by the central government, and was surpassed first by Santa Marta and later by Barranquilla as the major international trading port.

The city also became embroiled in the civil wars that characterized this period of Colombia’s history.  It also faced outbreaks of diseases like a cholera epidemic in 1849.  In fact, Gabrial Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is in fact based on this period in Cartagena’s history.

This chapter ends with the city’s turn around and rebuilding of economic infrastructure in the closing decade of the 1800s that coincided with the presidency of Cartagenero Rafael Nuñez.  This included a proper dredging of the Canal del Dique, the construction of a railroad, an aqueduct, and electricity.

*See also:  Visitors Guide to the Rafael Nuñez Home Museum

Finally, the last chapter examines the city in the 20th century, looking at the rise of tourism, the destruction of parts and later preservation of the city’s walls, and the continued development of the port.

*See also:  10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Cartagena’s Walls

Who Should Read It and Why?

Honestly, this book is a very easy read and pretty good overview.  Forero does provide some analysis on the consequences of major periods in addition to just recounting the history too.

There’s nothing too profound there, but it’s a great introduction to the history of the city.  Particularly the 3 chapters on the conquest, the colonial era, and the independence era will give both visitors to Cartagena and residents looking to learn a bit more a great background on the most important events in the city’s most well known historical era that they can still see traces of today.

I found especially interesting the discussions of the building of some of the major churches, the walls, and the other fortifications.  Those interested in a more detailed account of the building of the city’s fortifications should also check out Rodolfo Segovia’s The Fortifications of Cartagena.

The chapters on the 19th and 20th centuries also provide some good insights on periods that are often overlooked in the city’s history given the beauty of the colonial architecture and heroic stories of independence.

Some more discussion of social conditions and race may have been interesting here.  The book mostly sticks to accounting well known events and traditional interpretation.  Given this is a book of 150 pages with the word brief in the title, so I can’t complain too much there, but those with a strong background in the city’s history may not find a whole lot of new information there.

Still, it’s a good read.  I actually read it in Spanish as I picked it up in a local book store, and besides learning some things I didn’t know before, especially in the 19th century chapter, it was good reading in Spanish practice.

Therefore, I’d say it’s a good read for anyone at an intermediate Spanish level who wants to practice doing some reading as well.  I picked it up at Liberia Nacional in town, but you can also get a Spanish copy at Amazon.


I highly recommend it to those planning a visit to Cartagena or those living here and wanting to learn a bit of background on the city’s history, or for those looking to practice reading in Spanish.

Want to Read it for Yourself?

Check it out on Amazon (also in Spanish)

Prefer reading on a device?
Check out the Kindle Unlimited Plan

Prefer listening?
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Also be sure to check out Amazon Prime for free Kindle rentals as well as free 2 day shipping and access to lots of movies and tv shows.  Get a 30 day free trial or give it as a gift to someone else or yourself.  Students can get a 6 month trial.

Interested in learning more about Cartagena’s history?

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You may also be interested in the following posts:
Visitors Guide to the Castillo San Felipe Fortress
Visitors Guide to Cartagena’s Naval Museum
A History of Francis Drake’s Raid on Cartagena
A History of the 1741 Battle of Cartagena
10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Cartagena’s Walls

Planning your expedition to Cartagena?

Check out the following posts to help plan:
Insider’s Guide to the Best Areas to Stay in Cartagena
Complete Packing List for Cartagena
Top Things to Do in Cartagena

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