Articles, Culture

Locs in Cartagena, Colombia

Locs street art in Getsamani
Locs street art in Getsamani

For this holiday season, my brother, mother and I went to Cartagena. It is a beautiful city on the coast of Colombia, burgeoned with life and character. It was one of my first big trips outside of the US since I’ve had locs, so I was curious to note whether or not I would see people with locs in Cartagena and how others might react to mine.

History in Cartagena

Before going into the locs aspect, it’s helpful to place the city in a historical context.  Old City (Cartagena’s historic center) is lined with a wall that was built to protect its people from pirates. However, now it’s a spot for couples to cuddle and take in the view of the ocean.

In the past, Cartagena was no exception from the slave trade. My family and I were initially surprised to see the amount of dark-skinned people before learning of this fact. I can’t speak for the daily life of black or dark-skinned individuals in Cartagena now, but there is definitely a lot of pride and reverence for the afro-Colombians that escaped slavery and those that helped them. The Palenque village is known as the first free village of Africans in all of the Americas. It was set up by escaped slaves and the village still exists today. We didn’t get to visit the village, but you can still see the influence of the Palenque on Cartagena. Women selling fruits and photos wear a traditional Palenque garb and can be seen around Cartagena’s Old City.

Women in traditional Palenque dresses in Old City.
Women in traditional Palenque dresses in Old City.

Locs in Cartagena

Now onto people with locs in Cartagena! I didn’t see many other people with locs in Cartagena, so there is not much I can share on that front. Most of those that I did see were on a few of the vendors that lined the streets of Old City. Some of the other people I saw looked to be tourists. In short, it looked like mostly lower-income dark-skinned individuals were the locals I saw with locs. However, this is not much of a surprise given that afro-Colombians in Cartagena are more likely to be descendants of slaves and to have encountered all the challenges that come with rising above a disadvantageous background. As for me – no one commented on locs, and I never felt like anyone treated me differently either.

Street art and artist in Getsamani
Street art and artist in Getsamani

All in all, Cartagena is a beautiful city, and I recommend anyone thinking about going on vacation to check it out. It is a very romantic place, but also was enjoyable for us to visit as a family. While it would be useful to know Spanish, as it gives you a deeper connection with the city and its residents, you can get by without it.

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