One place I visited last year when in Cartagena that I definitely wanted to revisit was Mercado Bazurto. A bus or taxi ride away outside of the walled city, Mercado Bazurto is the bustling market where my perspective of Cartagena first changed. I would suggest going with Luis of Alternative Travel who will accompany you from your hotel to the market and back and will guide you through the market, stopping to introduce you to his friends that work the market, giving you an insiders perspective to an otherwise intimidating market if you decided to go it alone. The first time I went, people’s reaction was usually akin to “Why? It’s not safe. It’s dirty. etc”
And look, while I felt safe with Luis, I wouldn’t go by myself, and is it dirty? Yes. But I have a soft spot for markets. They are always the heart of the city and personally, I absolutely thrive off a semi-intimidating market. The other eye opening part about visiting Mercado Bazurto is that the majority of people you will find in the market are of African descent. This funnels into my VSCO project that I will go into more detail in my next post, but I had no idea that the Afro-Colombian population had such a strong presence in Cartagena, because within the city walls, this is not apparent. I had no idea that colonialism practices piled on hundreds and hundreds of years was still very much present in today’s society. The Afro Colombian population is underrepresented and undervalued, creating a divide within the society.
Yet, I am more inspired by Mercado Bazurto than I am the city center. The colors, the life, the appreciation for hard work, etc. Mercado Bazurto feels human to me, like an open heart that has wounds but continues to beat. The walled city hides behind beautiful facades and literally a perimeter of stone. You don’t know what is happening behind the veneer. But Mercado Bazurto is as raw as they come. So open and vulnerable in a way that most cities, not even most people can explore.