Stories Behind the Street Art of Getsemaní

“Art is an evolutionary act. The shape of art and its role in society is constantly changing. At no point is art static. There are no rules.”
― Raymond Salvatore Harmon, BOMB: A Manifesto of Art Terrorism

Getsemaní used to be known for drugs and crime, and was far from the cultural epicenter of Cartagena, Colombia that it now represents. Getsemaní has emerged from a complicated past and evolved into a burgeoning barrio complete with a live music scene and an artistic community spirit.

Recently with revitalization, this once seedy neighborhood has become the coolest, most authentic, and colorful part of Cartagena. These murals represent new issues that are plaguing Getsemani, such as racial segregation, gentrification and increasing tourism. I was in photographer’s heaven. Join me as we roam the vibrant street art of Getsemaní while the art unveils itself.

IMG_1159Amazing portrait of a homeless man who sleeps on the sidewalk below this wall.
The area where Cartagena stands today was originally inhabited by the Calamari people that dominated the Caribbean coast of Colombia from the borders of Panama up into La Guajira. This mural represents the beauty of the indigenous people.
IMG_0356Rodrigo Valdez is a former boxer from Cartagena, Colombia who was a two-time world middleweight champion and former undisputed middleweight champion of the world whose rivalry with Carlos Monzón has long been considered among the most legendary boxing rivalries.
IMG_0368This massive colorful mural by Colombian artist DEXS is impossible to miss if you walk on Calle de la Sierpe.
IMG_1149One of the muralists chose to celebrate the famous Salsa singer Joe Arroyo.
IMG_0362For a few blocks near the Plaza de la Santísima Trinidad in the Getsemaní neighborhood of Cartagena, Colombia, the legend of Pedro Romero lives. On the streets surrounding the plaza and its church, elaborate works of street art adorn the walls paying tribute to Pedro Romero, the hero of Cartagena’s independence movement for the people of Getsemaní.
IMG_1140Getsmaní is not only a fascinating cultural center, but an artist’s paradise. This little orange guy has a bottle of spray paint in one hand and seems to be very happy to be in Cartagena.
IMG_0373Daydreaming. Notice the arm transformed into a serpent.
IMG_0357This is one of my favorite murals. Two species of turtles, the Hawksbill and the Green turtle have severely declined in past decades due to the use of fishing nets, contaminated oceans, and hunting for their meat, shells, and eggs. Cartagena has a three-day event where they release turtles that have been protected since birth to promote the conservation of the animals that are in danger of extinction.
IMG_0361                                                        “Maria Mulata”
Street artist Yurika took inspiration from a traditional story told to her by an old lady living close to the plaza. As the story goes, in olden times, the neighborhood was populated not only by humankind but by exotic animals too, like the vivid bird named Maria Mulata. The exotic multi-colored birds with harmonious song came to the rescue when the town was enveloped in flames and helped carry the local people to the city limits in their beaks. But flying back and forth through the smoke and soot the Maria Mulatas lost their colorful feathers and were blackened afterwards. The villagers were saved and forever grateful to Maria Mulata. On bright days, locals can still see the brilliant colors in the bird’s black plumage. To see how it was made, go to the artist’s page here.
IMG_0375Amazingly, we found very few stray dogs in Cartagena. The dogs we did see were well fed and always on leashes.
IMG_1175Cartagena has a feral cat population, like Granada, Nicaragua. The feral cats form a rooftop community, which can become a nuisance for the residents of the city. They are undertaking a massive campaign to spay the feral females of the city to control the population.
IMG_1141Papillon in Spanish means butterfly or moth, but I definitely see a cat lady.
IMG_1145Looking for love? The family is the best.
IMG_0358I think that Mi Kartacho is a nickname for my Cartagena. The mural depicts the history of Cartagena with cannonballs, a cannon, and the clock tower.
IMG_0371Magical Cartagena. If you look closely in the lower left hand corner, you see “pray for Paris”. A traditional Palenquera is a vendor who sells fruit.
IMG_1169An emblematic Palenquera at rest with a bowl of fruit atop her head… as can be seen for real on the streets of Cartagena.

IMG_0360The fishermen of Cartagena cast their nets into the sea.
IMG_1152Then, there is this yellow fellow. He looks like something right out of Ghostbusters.
IMG_0374Getsemaní is a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues and evolution of murals depicting characters and events of significance to the area.
IMG_0359YO! Wandering up and down the colorful streets exploring the vivid urban art against the backdrop of faded 18th century architecture, Yo ( I ) am hooked on Getsemaní. This experience proves to me that …

“Art is an evolutionary act. The shape of art and its role in society is constantly changing. At no point is art static. There are no rules.”
IMG_1147What is your favorite mural?

20 thoughts on “Stories Behind the Street Art of Getsemaní

    • Yep. It was so hard for me to pick a favorite, too. I love the detail in the homeless man’s face. When I was researching the stories behind the street art, I found a picture of the homeless man beside his portrait. He looks exactly like the portrait. Incredible.

  1. Oh, wow, these are incredible and what a joy to see! Everyone there is able to see free art and covering the ugly walls of concrete. I don’t have a favorite…love them all. Thank you for sharing these!

  2. We loved Getsemani and and its vibrant street life and wandered about its side streets several times during our month long stay in Cartagena. I remember seeing the Maria Mulatas art and really enjoyed the many other photos that you posted here. Good memories. There were many signs of revitalization in the area when we were there and while the newly awakened interest in this old neighborhood has a positive side the gentrification might be its biggest threat yet … Anita.

  3. Well, there’s no end to the imagination of the people. I like the turtle and the old man with the beard in the beginning the best. The blue bird is nice too. I’m sure i would have gone crazy with my camera as well.

  4. Just beautiful and incrediblely painted wall murals captured here in the series. We have local wall murals in Penang, Malaysia but I do think these are not really lovely and artistic compared to those
    in Cartagena, Colombia.

  5. What a lot of art and so many incredible artists! Thanks for sharing this. I have to admit that when I read ” Cartagena”, I think of the movie “Romancing the Stone.” 🙂 I think the turtle and bird murals are my favorites.


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