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Cartagena de Indias under siege ...for one ear!

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Alfonso Alfonso | 09:43 UK time, Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Hello Everyone,
My name is Alfonso and first I just want to say thanks to the BBC LE Staff to give me the honor of being the blogger this month and thanks to the students for your comments on my entries as well.

I have an invitation for you guys....let´s go through the tunnel of time and have a trip down memory lane, back in the history, back to the Caribbean at 18th century, were a long list of battles and struggles, wind the Caribbean around Spain and England little fingers.

At that moment, two powerful empires were trying to take over the then richest Caribbean´s colonies. Some times, was difficult to see which way the Caribbean´s wind blew. Fairs or heads winds, back and forth between Spain and England, left the wind knocked out of the Caribbean. In one of those moments the spanish frigate La Isabela, under Captain Julio Leon Fandiño command, arrested an english captain and accused him of smuggler. As punishment, the spaniard, cut the english´s ear and told him back to England and let know the King that "I will do the same, if he dare to make the same".

Embarrased, weary and humiliated, without one of his ears, the english Captain Robert Jenkins, back to England with his already cut ear in a jar filled with alcohol and showed up on front of The English Parliament. The King George II, after heard the message and learnt from Captain Jenkins misfortunes, got offended and declared the war against Spain; therefore,one of the most powerful naval fleet, ever seen in the world, was at sea.The Brits based in Port Royal (Jamaica), under Admiral Sir Edward Vernon command:186 warships,27.600 mens and 2.000 cannons. The newly fleet took over Portobelo in Panama and, as a result, made a havoc (from here the name of Portobello Road in London). Moreover, in 1741, went against Cartagena de Indias although the cartagenians have had no word about the ear-to-be conflict. However, Sir Edward Vernon nearly destroyed the city in a siege that lasted 67 days.Cartagena de Indias was under military command of spaniard Liutenant General Blas de Lezo, of which gossip story tellers say, used to hold just "half of" his well known fishy stare look to his enemies and "half of"one hung when meet and greet his friends (as described by our famous colombian´s painter Alejandro Obregon, in his Blas de Lezo painting), and whom ;in contrast, did not care nothing about ears, have never heard of any, and; indeed,was less worry about it, because he had lost one eye, one arm and one leg in previous battles against pirates.

So, I´m wondering;on the other hand, if Blas de Lezo asked himself at that moment: What the heck! Why The Brits overreacted in that way just by one ear? He got some advice from them, in the hard way. He learnt;consecuently, why for, one cut english's ear, well worth the British Empire's rage: Litterally holding the forth, in this case de San Felipe de Barajas Castle(see actual photo below), cannons shots started to hit the chain of fortifications , that have been around Cartagena de Indias as a protection against the enemies at that time. Today, together with the castle, are just a tourist attraction and become part of the Cartagena de Indias Old City and Historic downtown.


That war become known in the story, as the Jenkins´ear War and lasted from 1739 trought 1748. Back to the 21th century,to our days,the San Felipe de Barajas Castle still standing proud and tall, fighting against time,the most powerful of his enemies. As, some elders, which say,if you are walking on night around the castle, don´t be afraid, if you see, time after time, a ghost with just one eye,one leg and one arm with a brandishing spade on top of the castle towers and don´t be afraid if you hear the cannory, screams, laments and muskets shooting out through the castle loopholes. Believed or not you may see the Liutenant General Blas de Leso, every day ,on front the San Felipe de Barajas Castle. I swear of God! The real drive behind this awful story, tainted with funny notes, cannons, gunpowder, warships, castles, military fortifications, ghosts,brandisching spades, is just to show you, how, our history, the Colombian Caribbean history, have been filled with magic,with sounds of drums, flutes, dancers, ghosts. You can hear the sounds of drums right now...can you? Follow up the link
Many things in the life of people bring happiness, but nothing have comparability, to which a father feel, with the success of a child, when, achieved a stage further in his life. My latter daughter Juliana, past month of May, took his oath as an American Citizen. I would like to share with you my friends this moment:

Alfonso's daughter

In the pictures you may see my daughter Juliana, showing us, her American Citizenship Certificate beside the American BCIS officer during the Oath´s Ceremony in Tampa, Florida, and then with her proud husband Ryan Lindsay. A dream became reality!

Enjoy the life!


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi, Alfonso. Congratulations to you and your daughter! You are sure, the success of our children are the most important thing in our lives. It's good to share with you.
    How is agreeable learning History with you. You have a very special way to describe the facts, a great storyteller. I found the history very bizarre...tell me did you see ghosts there?!! I believe you, I swear..
    Bye, I'm waiting at once for your wonderful histories.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Sonia,
    Nice to hear from you again and thanks for your valuable comment on my entry.
    I´m happy with my daughters so every time they achieved a new stage in life I wish to share it with all the people around.
    Let me tell you something:Actually I´m living 45 minutes away from Cartagena de Indias.It´s easy for me to get there.Every time I came over from Barranquilla to Cartagena, turned out to be a great experience.As a matter of fact,you may learn history from the direct source,and; indeed, you can touch it!.If you are in Cartagena de Indias,any time,day or night;in short,don´t be afraid if ,out the blue, you may see a ghost sneaking up, from behind your shoulder.It´s true.I swear!
    All the best,

  • Comment number 3.

    Hello Alfonso, that´s a great history about Cartagena de Indias!
    As I said you before I am learning more and more about your country. If I´m not wrong, here in Brazil, at almost all littoral we have buildings like this you posted in your blog. They served like protection against enemies. How much to war we can see that isn´t today people like wars. Nowadays, people continue warring and killing without motive, and of course, there was no motive to live at war if all people had respect by others. At last, congratulations for your daughter, I hope that she is very happy!

    All the best

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Adielson,
    Thanks for your comment.I´m pleased that you read it and learnt just a little bit of our history.I did my best.As far as I know,Brazil have similar and historic military fortress as used to in 17th century but built for Portugal.
    Keep in touch.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Alfonso,
    You are right Alfonso, here in Brazil was Portuguese empire that built around 350 fortresses, and nowadays they are used like touristic points. One of oldest fortresses was built in Natal – Rio Grande do Norte, in Northeast from Brazil, in 1598.

    Best regards

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi, Alfonso,
    Congratulations to your latter daughter Juliana for her American Citizenship Certificate!
    Nice to meet you and I'm really pleased to read your this plausible entry. For me, this is one of the best student entries what I've read whenever in The BBC Learning English, it would be very good if you continue to write in a such style, it's as if I'm reading something from Marquis Gabriel Garcia: you write with a deep sense of humour about a "seemingly" serious things. but that's so funny, too much, that to be an absolutely truthful historic fact. The part about "...a ghost with just one eye,one leg and one arm with a brandishing spade..." - surely you don't mean that, or it was a product of your fantasy after a good portion of teqiula, isn't it? :))) especially after your words, "I swear of God!" (it's may be a wrong way to judge a person by myself, but usually I'm using such kind of sentences in my chats to some girls when I feel again something wrong in my usual legends), and... :) and in general, if I were you, I would be much more carefull to talk such reminiscences: all of the old traditions of Kingdom, the most powerful naval fleet and the Lords' descendants still alive and they are supposedly proud as well as their ancestors, plus their ballistic missiles for cannons :)))...
    Thank you for your this interesting story, I'm looking forward to read your next entries. If you will, how about to talk to us also some amusing stories of your American life? What the city you were live in US?
    Best regards,

  • Comment number 7.

    Hello Alfonso,

    What an amazing story about this war triggered by the cut of one ear. According to your affirmation, it seems that Cartagena de Indias is the realm of ghosts. To my knowledge, nobody has claimed before the existence of ghosts anywhere in the world. By the way, where is the exact location of Cartagena de Indias? I'd like to go there some day to eyeball the mysterious ghosts. Do you know there's also Carthagena in Africa? But there seems to be no ghosts there!

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Alfonso,
    Thank you for taking us into the 18th century by your impressive writing and giving us a flavour of the war that held between England and Spain obviously becuae of the extending the empire of both nations. As you mentioned, the war was started for the British captain who lost his ear by spaniard and result in the war was named based on the british sailor. There is no doubt that British King had his pride and he held it in critical situation. The castle in the picture is still holding its head up and carrying the mystery of the war.
    About ghost, i have nothing much to say because i have a little knowledge though. People from my country, Bangladesh, also believe in ghost and free soul after death.
    Finally, congratulation to your daughter and wish her very good luck in her new quest in new life.

    All the best..


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