The city of Cartagena is one of my favorites to visit. It’s old, it’s beautiful, it’s got good coffee and good cocktails… And besides being reasonably close, it’s also the cheapest airport on the coast for (most people) to fly into from the United States. When Marty and I began planning his visit here, I knew we had to spend a couple of days there.
Founded in 1533, Cartagena was one of the most important ports during the Spanish colonization because it served as the major slave trading post for the country. Its colonial history is reflected in its architecture, down to the doors. Most of the doors on the buildings in the walled city are enormous, the kind you assume were built to allow horses to enter. Of course, they also have smaller human-sized doors so as to not always have to pull a 48904 pound door open and to avoid letting in so much hot air. It wasn’t really the doors that Marty and I became obsessed with, though: it was the knockers. Well, it may be more accurate to say that I became obsessed and Marty humored me.
The door knockers, called aldabas, are a remnant from the colonial days. They were once important status symbols. The bigger the knocker, the more important the family. Plus, they indicate to passersby the profession of the homeowner. I haven’t found total consensus over the meanings, but supposedly the lizard represented royalty (truthfully, this seems impossible because it was seemingly everywhere), the lion represented teachers, sea creatures represented merchants, etc. Additionally, the material that the aldabas are made from varies and was a status indicator. My favorites, though, were the ones for which the knocking mechanism animated the knocker. For example, the squid below knocks with one of its tentacles, making the squid come to life.