At first we drove by streets filled with trash piled randomly along the roadside, rusted metal grills encrusted over broken glass windows and peeling paint jobs over molded wood that pleaded for renovation, I thought, "so this is Cartagena." But as we passed by the very blatant divider of the historic city center, my eyes were soon greeted by high rises and upscale speciality stores; a metamorphasis into a man-made paradise available for sale or rent to the casual traveler.
The hostal where I first stayed at and now work is located in the richest area of Cartagena, but ironically is my cheapest option as my employment earns the room and board. The boxing gym, unsurprisingly, resides in one of the more impoverished areas and the boxers come from even humbler origins as their neighborhoods don't even appear on the map plastered on our hostal wall. I enter and return to two different places everyday, virtually two different worlds. Each passing day making it harder to comprehend how such inequalities can be in such close vicinity and seemingly overlooked.
When visitors ask me what there is in Cartagena, I try to casually mention in between the Volcano tour and the Chiva party bus that in reality Cartagena is extremely impoverished and retains an underlying system of racial segregation, but most guests just reply with nervous smile and ask where the nearest beach is. Hell, I can't blame them. Most, after all, are on vacation. Perhaps they lead very socially conscious lives and I still haven't learned to lighten up. I've just lost too much faith in humanity to believe that.
(Outside of my hostal.)
(Outside the home of a fighter.)
These two neighborhoods are fifteen minutes away from each other.