Reinvigorating the Celebrations

More than two decades have passed since Cartagena de Indias, also known as the Heroic City, proclaimed absolute independence of the Spanish Crown, becoming the second city in South America after Caracas, Venezuela and the first in Colombia to declare itself free of the Spanish yoke.

The Independence

An event that took place on November 11th, 1811, in the Government Palace, when a group of people led by the Gutierrez de Piñeres brothers and backed by the battalion of Getsemaní Patriotic Lancers bursted into the Palace so they could pressure the junta of Government of Cartagena into signing the Act of Absolute Independence.

Gustavo Cano © Solkes

May freedom live. May the tyranny die! The cry that was heard at the time of signing the Act, and that immediately granted the people Cartagena freedom; thus becoming an independent State.

Then, a year after that date, the first celebration of the Independence Day of the province of Cartagena was held, commemorating what was for them the most important historical event; The separation of the Spanish Crown.

From that moment on every year the Cartagenan people came together to remember what for them represented a step to independence and freedom.


A new story

Therefore, being reconquered again by Spain in 1815, these festivities were interrupted until later, in 1821 on a night of San Juan, General Jose Padilla succeeded in liberating and expelling the Spaniards from this territory, this time to always.

Gustavo Cano © Solkes

From that moment on, we began to weave a new history for Cartagena not only in the economic, political but also in the cultural, reason why the festivities of Independence that had been stalled once again take its course and this time with more strength in the different sectors of the city through music, disguises as well as the different tributes that surrendered to all the martyrs of independence.

Later, in the twentieth century some postures begin to rise in the face of what has been developing, so there is a certain rejection of some activities that were part of the popular festive tradition of Cartagena by the social elite.

In this case it would seem That the worst enemy for this sector in the celebration of the Independence Festivities would be the dances and comparsas of the carnival (Gutiérrez, 2010) manifestations that emanated of the black and raizal population.

Afro-descendant signs were now obscured or hidden under other languages ​​such as citizenship, emancipation, manumission, equality or inequality and were suppressed from public and private conversation (Ortiz, 2003 in Pardo, 2011).

Time passed between prohibitions and loss of some important festive spaces and later in 1934 in the National Beauty Pageant begins in the city. A private event totally disconnected from the national celebrations, although both events came to be celebrated in the same date its dynamics Were totally different.

The National Pageant managed to change the perspective of the Independence Festivities, which succeeded in weakening or overshadow the popular and cultural aspects of the city deeply, constituting itself as an essential part of the festivities of November 11.

In order to strengthen these dynamics and strengthen the memories of the festivities that were about to disappear, the Committee for the Revitalization of the Independence Festivities was born with the aim of recovering the meaning of the celebrations during the month of November.

This process was attended by the writer Jorge García Usta , inspiring the revitalization of the Cartagena Festivities and estimated as one of the most important managers in promoting this process.

In this cause he was accompanied by researchers Edgar Gutiérrez, Moisés Álvarez, and Enrique Muñoz along with Gina Ruz, Alberto Abello, Irina Junieles, Alfonce Arce, who organized cultural meetings with festive agents, social actors who, as historical subjects, undertook academic and Pedagogy about the meaning of the Independence Festivities.

Gustavo Cano © Solkes

The social and cultural researcher, Gina Ruz, explains that this process began to originate in a permanent and methodical form from the year 2003. Although years ago already came the concern for the deterioration and the loss of the importance of the Festivities of Independence in the city.

Ruz, adds, that same year gave way to the first forum “Present and future of popular festivals in Cartagena,” convened by the Ninety-nine cultural research magazine, where it was possible to collect a series of reflections, and proposals for the restoration of the popular festivities in the city as well as recommendations, such as the following:

The popular festivities of November of Cartagena suffer a chronic crisis produced by diverse political, social, cultural and economic reasons. The recovery of the festive world of November 11 should be one of the first essential tasks to restore the general festive tradition of Cartagena. And it is a basic element in the recovery of the urban social fabric, in the creation of spaces of citizen encounter and in the stimulus to the popular creativity and the urban coexistence.


Revitalization of the Independence Parties Committee

Although in 2003, work began on the revitalization process, it was in 2004 during the “Thinking of the Independence Feasts” forum that the Advisory Committee for Festivals was created.

The Committee was soon renamed Revitalization of the Independence Festivities since they were not an Advisory Committee, considering that they went beyond advising, but rather accompanying the elaboration of the programming.

It should be clarified that the Committee for the Revitalization of the Independence Parties is not an organization that has a board of directors much less have a person in charge, nor is registered in Chamber of Commerce.

It is an association of people and entities; a Union of volunteers working for initiatives that generate actions aimed at enriching and defending the Cartagena Independence Festivities, as well as creating concrete actions for the revitalization and improvement of the festivities.

Gustavo Cano © Solkes

During 2005 there were some tangible fruits of the process of reinventing the holidays, in 2006 and 2007 there were some setbacks. In the following 4 years something important was achieved. This was the inclusion of the revitalization in the development plan carried out specific actions with the mayor and the IPCC (Institute of Heritage and Culture of Cartagena de Indias) that managed to stimulate and strengthen this process.

But it was in 2016 that a significant advance was made for the Revitalization process. The untying of the National Beauty Contest of the Independence Festivities, and with this to recover some spaces and activities that had been absorbed by the National Contest.

Also, as a result of this effort can be stated some achievements concluded:

1. Deepening knowledge about its history and evolution as a result of academic research, seminars and publications.

2. The appearance of neighborhood celebrations, which when excluded from the official organization, have launched to make their own sides, parades and carnivals in different parts of the city.

3. The emergence of a cultural network of teachers who have led in the educational sector educational plans with this component and musical and dance developments, enriching the recovery with parades and parades during the holidays.

4. The re-denomination of the holidays to give it its true meaning. They have been renamed Festivities of Independence and as such the city and the country know them.

5. Research and innovation exercises on costumes and festive props (seminars, workshops, international cooperation programs, among others).

6. Compilation of music of the Independence festivities.

7. The emergence of new groups sponsored by private companies and clubs.

8. The design of a university diploma on culture and holidays, in charge of the University of Cartagena (faculties of Human Sciences, Social Sciences and education, and University Welfare Division).

Gustavo Cano © Solkes

9. The expansion and strengthening of public parades during the Independence Festivities.

10. The design of an official poster that incorporates and highlights the historical and popular elements of the sense of celebration.

11. Reorientation of the role of queens of Independence as multipliers of new knowledge about the history of festivals and new festive cultural expressions. They are also urged to play a leading role in joining their neighborhoods for the enjoyment of a full, healthy and fulfilling festive life.

12. Dynamic and growing linkage of the educational sector: creation of the Cultural Network of Educators, of the School Parade in Homage to the heroes of Independence, of the School Music and Dance Festival in homage to Jorge García Usta.

13. The dignification of festive actors.

14. A strong academic component of reflection, training and research.

15. The re-zoning of the preludes, as scenarios of cultural and community coexistence.

16. The creation and positioning of spaces of cultural and social inclusion such as the Drum and Singers’ Jolgorio, Salsa a la Plaza, the March of sexual diversity (with an important component of claiming rights.

17. The consecration of the Night of Fantasy to the sample of the creativity of the local artisans.

18. The presence and claim of popular and folk at the party.

19. Agenda of parties celebrated with festive actors.

20. The figure of the Great Lancers as festive authorities.

21. Strengthening of Cabildos and Carnival in the organizational and formative.

In summary

Gustavo Cano © Solkes

Currently, the Committee for the Revitalization of Independence Parties works hand in hand with the IPCC with the aim of including this festivity in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation.

This is why they have been setting up collective and participatory workshops with the purpose of the documents enrichment that will be submitted to the Ministry of Culture that requests the inclusion of these holidays as Intangible Heritage.

In addition, they will continue to ensure the strengthening of activities such as citizen coexistence, security, financing, improvements in the organization of events and the linking of other sectors of the city to this important celebration. The Committee will continue to develop mechanisms for change given all these challenges. This will allow the recovery and reinvention of the Independence Festivities in the city of Cartagena.

Translated By: Carolina Correa


Rojas, G. R., & Vives, A. A. Las Fiestas de Independencia de Cartagena como patrimonio cultural inmaterial de la Nación colombiana.

Gutiérrez, E. (2010). La celebración del centenario en Cartagena de Indias:¿fue excluyente en sus imaginarios populares?. Espacio Tiempo y Forma. Serie V, Historia Contemporánea, (22).

Pardo, M. (2011). Entre el espectáculo y la agencia. Signos afrodescendientes y políticas culturales en Cartagena. Circulación de signos culturales afrocaribeños: políticas, mercados, intelectuales. Cartagena, Veracruz, La Habana. Pp, 69-94.

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