Usually, if a town has bars on the windows, it indicates it’s dangerous, run-down, not family-friendly. Same with graffiti – clean towns, with proper neighbourhood associations and fine upstanding citizens, paint over any pesky graffiti before hoodlums take over the streets. Here in Cartagena, there are both bars on the windows and graffiti on the walls, and it’s the most amazing, friendly, positive place. I am constantly saying to Ellen, “Oh, our cousin Renee would love to raise her kids here. Look at the kids playing ball in the square, and all the moms dancing to Salsa music nearby!”

The church in Plaza de la Trinidad - host of bingo nights, Salsa dancing, food and drink vendors, and children's soccer games.

The church in Plaza de la Trinidad – host of bingo nights, Salsa dancing, food and drink vendors, and children’s soccer games.

Everywhere I look, I see another thing that someone at home would love. Our cousin Josh would love to skateboard on these winding streets. Jill and Chris (our parents) would love to paint the beautiful buildings in the old city. My friend Ashley would go crazy looking at the souvenirs for sale from little vendors all over the city. Yejin would admire some of the attractive guys wandering by. Why aren’t all you people visiting Cartagena? Let’s have a meet-up here!

I wish I could capture the beauty of the buildings here as well as this street vendor's lovely paintings

I wish I could capture the beauty of the buildings here as well as this street vendor’s lovely paintings

But back to the topic – the bars on the windows. In Costa Rica, as I mentioned last week, there were metal bars and barbed wire fences. Here, there are also bars, but not to the same extent. The wrought iron bars are decorative as well as functional. Wooden bars usually have flowers in pots beneath them and vines growing through them up the walls.

Form meets function while showing Latin America's typical attention to beauty

Form meets function while showing Latin America’s typical attention to beauty

The bars seem more to define private versus public spaces when people’s doors are open, rather than to serve as fortifications against unseen enemies. Here, the bars are a pleasing and integral aspect of the architecture, painted or stained to complement the walls. I can’t imagine Cartagena without bars, and I wouldn’t want to.

The bars here suit the design of the buildings

The bars here suit the design of the buildings

I’ve also seen lots of graffiti here in Cartagena as well – incredible works of art that add to the beauty of the crumbling old city walls, brightening dark spaces. Instead of showing disrespect for the city, they seem to show the love the people here have for their town. A missing stone from a wall becomes an eye socket in a portrait – a feature rather than a blemish.

Mural or graffiti? In this case, probably a mural, but who can tell?

Mural or graffiti? In this case, probably a mural, but who can tell?

This artist is prolific and incredible at portraiture

This artist is prolific and incredible at portraiture

The wall nearest the hostel is full of samples of this graffiti artist's work

The wall nearest the hostel is full of samples of this graffiti artist’s work

I don't read Spanish well enough to understand this yet, but I captured a picture for when I do

I don’t read Spanish well enough to understand this yet, but I captured a picture for when I do

This one caught our eye because it looks a little like us!

This one caught our eye because it looks a little like us!

A colourful statement on new construction versus traditional buildings

A colourful statement on new construction versus traditional buildings

Really, this town is beautiful. You should come visit.

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