A Christmas time tradition in Cartagena is the Festival del Pastel.  Also known as Tamals in the interior, pastels are a traditional, filling food.  While it’s eaten all year, it’s particularly associated with Christmas time.  The 2019 Festival del Pastel will be on until December 22.  Read on to learn what to expect and how to visit and taste one for yourself.

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Photo of the entrance to the festival del pastel
Read on to learn more about the Festival del Pastel.

What is a Pastel?

Pastels are similar to Tamals made in the interior of Colombia and to Venezuelan Hallacas.

They are a mix of rice, meat, and veggies wrapped and steamed in a leaf known as the hoja de bijao, similar to a banana tree leaf.  Like so many other foods in Colombia, each region has their own spin and particularities.  The most well known elsewhere in Colombia is probably the tamal Tolimense which includes corn meal.

Here on the coast, it is made without the corn meal, using only rice.  It blends Afro-Colombian, Indigenous, and Spanish cooking traditions and is especially associated with the Christmas season and family get togethers.

It is usually filled with chicken, pork, or a mixture.  You’ll also sometimes see it served with turkey or beef.

The IPCC Cartagena has done a great job the last couple years revitalizing these types of events, so I expect it to be well done, and there will be live music performances most evenings.  I haven’t been yet, but my wife Susana went the opening night and said it was well organized, and the pastels were of course delicious!

Photo of a pastel
Pastels are a tasty mix of rice, meat, and veggies steamed in a bijao leaf.

Where is the Festival del Pastel?

In the Parque Marina around the side of the Naval Museum behind the San Pedro Claver Church.

There’s no entrance fee and the festival is open from 10 AM to 9 PM from December 13-22, 2019.

What to Expect

Similar to the Festival del Frito, there are different tables and the cooks are competing to be named the best.  There are different stands where you can order from.

Here are the prices for the Festival del Pastel 2019:

  • Pastel de una presa (with chicken or pork) – 11,000 pesos
  • Pastel Mixto (chicken and pork) – 12,000 pesos
  • Pastel de Gallina Criolla y cerdo (hen and pork) – 14,000 pesos
  • Pastel de Gallina o Pavo (hen or turkey) – 17,000 pesos
  • Patel Trifásico (chicken, pork, and beef) – 18,000 pesos

There you have it, a guide to visiting the 2019 Festival del Pastel in Cartagena.  I hope you get to go and enjoy this unique traditional food!

Cheers and Happy Exploring!

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What to Expect During the Festival del Frito – Guide to Cartagena’s Fried Food Festival

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