Castillo san Felipe de Barajas, (I’m just going to write it as “the fort” or else my fingers will cramp up) was built in 1536 to defend the city, after several raids on the undefended gold-hotspot led to death and loss of wealth. Guards were posted 24 hours to defend the city, with cannons atop as both a display of power and for deadly attacks.
Views from the top show that it overlooks the city and the sea, to defend from pirate and naval attacks. Our guide spoke very accented English, so I couldn’t tell you much of his story, but I can give you the gist.
The tunnels winding through the fort were short, and narrow. Many led up at a carefully measured angle, so that soldiers defending the tunnels from above could shoot down and hit attackers’ chests, but attackers at the bottom would only be able to shoot the defenders’ feet, if that. This reminded me a bit of the European castle stairway trick, where attackers couldn’t attack with their sword arm because of the spiral staircase’s direction. Interspersed in the walls of the tunnels, every meter or two, were little nooks where soldiers were posted, to ambush would-be-invaders with a well-placed bayonet stab or shot. As you can see in the photos, the tunnels were very cramped and claustrophobic, and I had to tilt my head a bit to fit. The light at the end of the tunnel never looked so inviting.
The Fort was set in tiers, kind of like a Mexican pyramid and as can be seen, the walls to each level were steep and the fort was very high off the ground.
A more defensive and imposing fort would be hard to find in South America.
Finally, having reached the top of the fort, we stopped for a stupendous view of the city and the cannons placed to defend the city. Various guard spots adorned the walls. Many, many, many photos were taken.
Now days, though the fort is not used, it is valued for its insight into the Cartagenian history, as well as it’s stunning juxtaposition with the evolving city around it.
Written and researched by Tristan