- ITH WISDOM and hospitality, a former
- President of Colombia urged his official
- visitors to see the antique city of Cartage-
- na de noche y en coche-a
rhyme in Spanish,
- "by night and by coach."
- Romantic notion, and more: This fortress
- the Caribbean is a world heritage site, as designated
- by UNESCO. Like an aging beauty, Cartagena best
- recaptures her voluptuous past in the dim light of
- candles and coach lamps. To the cadence of horse
- Mirrored in a street slick
- with rain, a hired coach
- stands topsy-turvy before
- the Church of San Pedro
- Claver in the romantic
- colonial quarter of this
- historic Colombian city.
- A key port of the Spanish
- Main from the 16th to the
- 18th centuries, Cartagena
- proudly preserves the
- grand structures of that
- bygone era.
- gold, Cartagena became the most important
- port in the New World, a storehouse for provi-
- sions and treasure and a fatal temptation for
- Now, by day, new parts of the city sprawl wide.
- Sunbathers, basted with lotions, carpet the beach.
- Vendors sell raspados-shaved ice with syrup-sea-
- shell jewelry, and garlands of fishy iguana eggs.
- Colombians from Bogotá-cachacos to the local
- folk-come here "so they can stroll the streets in safe-
- ty," a young policeman says proudly. "Here people
- make love, not crime." So growing Cartagena bus-
- tles, newly noisy with 800,000 people.
- Some 70,000 still live within the old battlements.
- And each afternoon they await "that hour of mysteri-
- ous flourishing, " as poet Guillermo Valencia called
- it. Like an unlucky ship, the sun slips abruptly into
- the sea. A strong, steady breeze blows in, rattling