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29 July 1525, Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas founded the city of Santa Marta, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

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Each of the three major cities along this coast – Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta – is totally different. Cartagena is a World Heritage city, with beautiful colonial architecture, a deep history and lots of tourists. Barranquilla is a city of business as it is the region’s major port.

But Santa Marta is my favorite. On the surface, yes, it is touristy. But most tourists head for either of the two towns that flank this major port: Colombians for El Rodadero and foreigners for Taganga. Santa Marta also has a long history, from Tayrona indigenous settlements to Spanish conquest, pirates and US banana companies. Many small villages tucked within the banana plantations open doors into the history and culture: Aracataca, Gabriel García Marquez’ hometown; Ciénaga, where the 1928 banana worker massacre occurred; Minca, tucked deep in the mountains, a welcomed escape from the sultry coast. The intense natural beauty of national parks and reserves in the area also await you.

But pull aside that tourist-commercial curtain, and beneath you’ll find the city’s gritty underside. It is still a major port (not only for bananas that continue to be grown in massive fincas nearby, but also for coal from far inland) – and it has the associated problems. Spend a while in Santa Marta – as I have on several occasions – and in quiet conversations, you will hear hushed facets of the city’s and the region’s history and politics.

To read more about Santa Marta, checkout my coverage at:

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My stints in Santa Marta have inspired reams of poetry. A selection of these poems appears a pamphlet, Caribbean Nights, published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2014 (

Today – which is also Rain Day ( – I share one of those Santa Marta-inspired poems.

To accompany our journey, let’s listen to a composer from the other end of the South American continent: Pedro Humberto Allende, who was born in Chile on 29 July 1885:

Safe Journeys!


L_caputoby Lorraine Caputo29 Jul 2016

Then the storm comes
torrents rushing down roofs
through spouts
Throaty thunder
more bolts more frequent
more near
crisp thunder
Flashes bright &
outside my window

I meditate upon those
throbbing waves
heaving ‘round this
evening heaven
I feel that
within my being

published in :
Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014)