Cartagena kärtähā´nä [key], city (1993 pop. 616,231), capital of Bolívar dept., NW Colombia, a port on the Bay of Cartagena in the Caribbean Sea. It exports oil, coffee, and platinum. Manufactures include leather and tobacco products, cosmetics, and textiles. Tourism is a growing industry. Cartagena was founded in 1533 and became the treasure city of the Spanish Main, where precious stones and minerals from the New World awaited transshipment to Spain. Although the harbor was guarded by 29 stone forts and the city was encircled by a high wall of coral, Cartagena suffered sackings and invasions—in 1544, 1560, and in 1586 (by Sir Francis Drake). In 1741 it withstood a three-month British siege. The city was the first of those in Colombia and Venezuela to declare (1811) absolute independence from Spain. Known as the Republic of Cartagena, it was one of the bases used by Simón Bolívar to launch his campaign to liberate Venezuela. In 1815 the city was besieged and captured by the Spanish general Pablo Morillo, who inflicted savage reprisals on the population. Captured by rebel forces in 1821, Cartagena was incorporated into Colombia. After the revolution the city lost its importance and did not regain it until the 20th cent., with the improvement of communications and the laying of a pipeline to the oil fields of the Magdalena basin. Shady plazas and narrow cobblestone streets make Cartagena one of the most picturesque cities in Latin America. Points of interest include walls and fortifications from colonial times, a 16th-century cathedral, and the Univ. of Cartagena.
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