Cartagena’s Patriotic Symbols – The Meaning of Cartagena’s Flag, Seal, and Anthem

Street art showing a man holding Cartagenas flag.

After declaring its independence as a free and sovereign state in November of 1811, the new sovereign Free State of Cartagena needed patriotic symbols.  Today the city continues to use the same flag adopted at independence and recently it readopted a variation of the independence era seal.  Read on for an explanation of the meaning of Cartagena’s flag and seal and the historic significance behind them.

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Street art showing a man holding Cartagenas flag.
Street art, read on for an explanation of the meaning of Cartagenas flag. Image Source: Pixabay

Cartagena’s Flag

Meaning of Cartagena’s Flag

After declaring themselves independent from Spain on November 11, 1811, Cartagena’s leaders set about creating patriotic symbols for their new sovereign state.  On November 17, 1811, the Free State of Cartagena, adopted its flag.  The only province that had declared absolute independence of Spain, the flag was therefore the first flag of an independent Colombia and the second in all of Spanish America.  (*Read more about Cartagena’s Declaration of Independence here).

Cartagena’s flag, known as La Cuadrilonga, consists of 3 rectangles of different colors.  The red exterior rectangle represents the blood of patriots.  Inside of it, the yellow rectangle represents the sun, shining on liberty and the richness of the land.  Finally, the interior green rectangle represents the eternal hope for a dignified homeland.

In 1812, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the Free State of Cartagena, an 8 pointed star that represents the 8 municipalities that made up the Free State of Cartagena de Indias was added to the center of the flag.

Cartagena's flag, adopted after Cartagena's Declaration of Independence in 1811 that is commemorated during the Cartagena Independence Festivities, consisting of a green rectangle inside a yellow rectangle inside a red rectangle with a white seven pointed star in the center.
Cartagena’s flag was originally adopted as the flag of the Free State of Cartagena, whose creation is commemorated in the Cartagena Independence Festivities.
History of Cartagena’s Flag

Being the first flag to represent independence in Colombia and the leading role of the Caribbean coast in the struggle for independence, Cartagena’s flag held enormous importance.  Simón Bolívar carried the flag into battle during the Magdalena Campaign of 1812 and the Admirable Campaign of 1813.  In 1814, Cartagena’s flag was also adopted as the official flag of the United Provinces of New Granada.  

Cartagena’s flag served as the flag of the Republic of Colombia until 1861, when the current flag was adopted.  It was also adopted by a number of other cities and municipalities, including Barranquilla.  And of course it is still prominently displayed in Cartagena today.

Cartagena’s Seal

After declaring independence, Cartagena’s patriots had no interest in keeping the city’s Spanish coat of arms and set about coming up with their own, one more representative of the Americas.  With the signing of the constitution of 1812, they adopted their new seal.

The seal had an indigenous woman, perhaps meant to be India Catalina, sitting under a palm tree and feeding a bird a pomegranate.  On the ground is a broken chain, representing the freedom from colonial oppression, and in the background the landmark of La Popa Hill.  It was clearly meant to symbolize the break with Spain and used the symbol of the indigenous Americans breaking free.  This seal was printed on coins at the time and remained in use until the fall of the city during the Spanish reconquest of 1815.

In 2015, the city readopted a seal resembling the historic seal as an official symbol of the city.  Currently, the seal used by the mayor’s office is a slightly altered version of this one.  You can see below different iterations of the seal.

From left to right: A historic rendering of the seal, the updated version adopted in 2015, and the version used today by the mayor’s office.  Image Sources:  Museo Historico Cartagena, Wikimedia Commons, Alcaldía Cartagena

Cartagena’s Anthem

The city’s anthem is not historic, but recounts the historic events of independence.  Cartagena’s current city anthem was officially adopted in the 1950s.  The words were written by Daniel Lemaitre and the music composed by Adolfo Mejía.  It is an homage to Cartagena’s struggle for independence.  Below you can find the words in Spanish along with my best English translation below:

(*Also check out a cool rendition with background shots of Cartagena and its people here)

Spanish:

Suenen trompas en honor
de la noble e ínclita Ciudad
que por patría se inmoló
con sus gestas gloriosas de Libertad
(x2)

Coro:
Libertad, Libertad
la Fé con ardor gritó
y en un Once de Noviembre
fue la Heroica Cartagena
quien del yugo las cadenas
cual fiera leona destrozó
English Translation:

Sound the horns in honor
of the noble and famed city
that for country sacrificed itself
with its glorious deeds fighting for liberty
(x2)

Chorus:
Liberty, Liberty
the faith with fervor shouted
and on an 11th of November
it was the heroic Cartagena
who from the yoke of the chains
of a fierce lion broke free

Colombia’s National Anthem Also Honors Cartagena

In 1887, Cartagenero and future Colombian President Rafael Nuñez wrote a poem in honor of the celebrations of Cartagena’s Independence.  It was first improvised as a song on November 11.  It was later formally adapted and was designated Colombia’s official national anthem in 1920.  Given its enormously important and leading role in independence, it is only fitting that a song dedicated to Cartagena’s struggle is the national anthem today.  Consisting of a total of 11 stanzas, normally only the first is sung along with the chorus.  You can find the words in Spanish, again with my best translation below.

(*Also check out a rendition with patriotic images of Colombia here)

Spanish:

Coro:
¡Oh, gloria inmarcesible!
¡Oh, júbilo inmortal!
¡En surcos de dolores
El bien germina ya!
(x2)

¡Cesó la horrible noche!
La libertad sublime
Derrama las auroras
De su invencible luz.
La humanidad entera,
Que entre cadenas gime,
Comprende las palabras
Del que murió en la cruz.

Coro (x2)
English Translation:

Chorus:
Oh, undying glory !
Oh immortal joy!
In the furrows of pain
the good already sprouts!
(x2)

The horrible night ended!
Sublime liberty
shines the dawn
of its invincible light.
All humanity
that cries in chains
understands the words
of he who died on the cross.

Chorus (x2)

 


Interested in learning more about the celebration of Cartagena’s Independence?

This is part 5 of an 11 part series on the celebration and history of Cartagena’s Independence.  Check out the other parts below:


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