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Photographs by O. LOUIS MAZZATENTA

ITH WISDOM and hospitality, a former
President of Colombia urged his official
visitors to see the antique city of Cartage-
na de noche y en coche-a rhyme in Spanish,
"by night and by coach."
   Romantic notion, and more: This fortress city on
the Caribbean is a world heritage site, as designated
by UNESCO.  Like an aging beauty, Cartagena best
recaptures her voluptuous past in the dim light of
candles and coach lamps.  To the cadence of horse
hoofs, on streets so narrow
that balconies almost
collide, visitors see baroque
facades and castellated bas-
tions...a shadowy, lived-in
museum with street life and
laughter and the gossip
of history.
   And what history.  As a
guardian of Spanish sea-lanes
for Peruvian silver and
Mirrored in a street slick
with rain, a hired coach
stands topsy-turvy before
the Church of San Pedro
Claver in the romantic
colonial quarter of this
historic Colombian city.
A key port of the Spanish
Main from the 16th to the
18th centuries, Cartagena
proudly preserves the
grand structures of that
bygone era.
gold, Cartagena became the most important
port in the New World, a storehouse for provi-
sions and treasure and a fatal temptation for
   Now, by day, new parts of the city sprawl wide.
Sunbathers, basted with lotions, carpet the beach.
Vendors sell raspados-shaved ice with syrup-sea-
shell jewelry, and garlands of fishy iguana eggs.
Colombians from Bogotá-cachacos to the local
folk-come here "so they can stroll the streets in safe-
ty," a young policeman says proudly.  "Here people
make love, not crime." So growing Cartagena bus-
tles, newly noisy with 800,000 people.
   Some 70,000 still live within the old battlements.
And each afternoon they await "that hour of mysteri-
ous flourishing, " as poet Guillermo Valencia called
it.  Like an unlucky ship, the sun slips abruptly into
the sea.  A strong, steady breeze blows in, rattling
From the: National Geographic - Page 1 of 12