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Panorama of Cartagena from the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

CARTAGENA-BOLIVAR or Cartagena de Indias is a city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of the Bolívar Department. The port city had a population of 892,545 as of the 2005 census. It is the fifth-largest city in Colombia and the second largest in the region, after Barranquilla. The Cartagena urban area is also the fifth-largest urban area in the country. Economic activities include maritime and petrochemicals industry, as well as tourism.

The city was founded on June 1, 1533, and named after Cartagena, Spain. However, settlement in this region around Cartagena Bay by various indigenous people dates back to 4000 BC. During the colonial period Cartagena served a key role in administration and expansion of the Spanish empire. It was a center of political and economic activity due to the presence of royalty and wealthy viceroys. Cartagena is the city most associated with pirates in the Caribbean, and the world. In 1984 Cartagena’s colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Between 1930 and 1970 the city showed population growth at rates higher than the national average. By 1970, the population spurt was over. Yet the population has tripled since the 1980s with a mixture of privatization of the port infrastructure, decentralization of tourism, and the fact that, proportional to its population, Cartagena is the city that has received the most displaced people from the countryside with the escalation of civil war in the 1990s in the Andean regions as refugees looked for safety in the Caribbean capital.

The 6th Summit of the Americas was held in Cartagena on April 14 and 15, 2012. A prostitution scandal involving U.S. President Barack Obama’s security detail received international attention and overshadowed the summit.

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