Palace of justice, Parque de los Novios.
Lets start this story from the beginning. Where did the name of Santa Marta come from? There are several theories, like happens with almost every historic fact. The first one, and the most accepted among the locals and Catholics has to do with its hospitality.
Do you remember the biblical scene when Martha of Bethany opens her home to Jesus and his disciples? Historians say that the Spanish felt welcomed by this beautiful bay of calmed waters, after their long journey at the sea. Here they found a place to settle up, provisions and the refreshing waters of the Manzanares River. Santa Marta also gave them gold to pay off their debts and a strategic point of access to the rest of the territory.
From here departed the expedition led by Pedro de Heredia that resulted in the foundation of Cartagena in 1533, and the expedition of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada that ended up in the foundation of Bogotá, todays Colombia’s capital city (1538). This was 10 years after Santa Marta was already founded.
Others say that its name is a simple coincidence, and that Rodrigo de Bastidas settled in Santa Marta in the same day that the Spanish celebrate the miracles of this woman that was proclaimed a saint. And few history books argument that the city was named after the famous Spanish city of Santa Marta de Astorgas.
What is a fact is that during the last centuries Santa Marta has been well known as an important touristic district. One of the must go places in Colombia for locals and travelers around the world. Its origins of hospitality remain. There are literally hotels, hostels and guesthouses everywhere!
I have been living here since the end of 2014, and definitely my favorite place (after the beach, of course) is the old town. It has something magic. Maybe are the old buildings that resist to be forgotten, or the fact that is so close to the sea, the small and cozy coffee shops and restaurants, or the plazas and parks where Caribbean life takes place.
The “downtown” is small, and in process of reconstruction. It was abandoned for years by the authorities and the people, who didn’t pay attention to its historical value. Now days, this colonial and republican houses and buildings are coming back to life. And with them the stories of the first city founded by the Spanish in Colombian territory, and one of the oldest cities in Latin America.
In July 29 of 1525 the Spanish conqueror Rodrigo de Bastidas, after sinking the biggest of his ships (as a way of telling his men that there was no way back) and with the authorization of king Carlos I, proclaimed himself governor of the province of Santa Marta. That act was recorded as the foundation of the city.
“Rodrigo de Bastidas. Born in Triana Sevilla (Spain) in 1460, and died in Cuba in 1527. Captain an governor. Founded Santa Marta in July 29, 1525. He has the most humanitarian of the conquerors and a generous friend”.
Lets discover together the magic of this welcoming Caribbean city!