Pandemic reveals hidden poverty in Cartagena

By Ricardo Maldonado Rozo

Cartagena, Colombia, Jun 2 (efe-epa).- The city port of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast has been promoted to the world as the jewel of Colombian tourism.

But a hidden side of the city has been revealed during the coronavirus pandemic, that of an unequal metropolis with high rates of poverty, beset by corruption and an insufficient health system.

The picture-postcard cobbled streets of the walled Old Town normally crowded with tourists are now deserted, which reveals another of its problems: few locals live in the city center as most residences have been turned into holiday flats.

Most of the colorful 16th century colonial buildings have been converted into exclusive restaurants, luxurious hotels and bars for tourists, residents feel that this part of the city no longer belongs to them.

The other side of Cartagena, which the tourists seldom ever visit, pulses with its African heritage and the rhythm of champeta.

It was this part that David Múnera, secretary of the interior to the mayor’s office, was referring to when he described the city as made up of “some belts of poverty and misery” that are “too big”.

He said that in these neighborhoods more than 60 percent of workers are informally employed.

“There are hundreds of thousands of men and women who work on a day-to-day basis and that obviously has the consequence that a large population of the city live in poverty,” he added.

People living in this part of Cartagena often have no access to basic public services and live in houses built from scrap metal, plastic and wood sometimes on dirt streets without sewage systems.

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