The North in the South: immersion in the San Diego quarter.
On the 26th of November the North in the South tour visited the San Diego quarter of Cartagena.
The journey began at the Palacio de Aguirre, the present day MURAM museum headquarters, a modernist building dating back to 1895. We learned that the building represents an era in which the neighbourhood was a distinguished place for the bourgeoisie of Cartagena to live. Over time however the neighbourhood has become more and more of a marginal area, which is clearly noticeable in the geography and more contemporary architecture of the neighbourhood.
At our next stop, Manolita, the Director of the local social centre explained us how the activities taking place at the social centre have been adapted to the changing profile of the neighborhood and its inhabitants. Among the adaptations was the change of the menu of the cafeteria of the social centre to be more accommodating to a multicultural diet. Furthermore in a bid to limit the increased numbers of truancy among the students, the centre has implemented a rule that those making use of the cafeteria have to account for their presence at school before being allowed in.
Guided by the scent of freshly baked bread our route continued to the bakery of Maestre, a local landmark in Cartagena since 1902.
On Fridays the bakery always makes Cespillos
a specialty cake from Cartagena made with flour, water, white wine and salt. Despite its basics ingredients it is long been a very popular snack, especially for lunchtime.
Pedro and José explained us how the original fin-de-siècle
wood oven the bakery still uses today is fired by olive oil as an ecologically friendly source of combustion.
We continued our journey passing the Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Church where we read the news published on the 8th of November of this year in the local paper La Opinión:
The church asks its followers for loans to finance the reform of the parish.
We continued our journey and visit a local army dump store, a commercial shop specialized in second hand army materials open since 1936. The shop reminds us of the strong presence of the military in the city for centuries.
Seguimos nuestro itinerario y visitamos la tienda del soldado, un comercio de artículos 2ª mano, abierto desde el año 1936. En esta tienda predominan sobre todo artículos militares, que nos recuerdan la contundente presencia militar en la ciudad, durante siglos.
The owner of the shop Manolo boasts that Frederico Trillo once bought a chair here for his house in Cabo de Palos.
Passing through the Edificio de la Milagrosa, today the seat of the Rector of the University of Cartagena, we arrive at the Patronato del Sagrado Corazón in the heart of the neighborhood. The school, which was built in the beginning of the century by and for the bourgeoisie, has undergone changes which run parallel to the development of the neighborhood: nowadays it houses students of over nine nationalities. The school is now firmly committed to respecting and promoting the traditions of the different nationalities living together in the center.
Sister Maria José (of the order of San Vicente), reports of workshops held to address the problems of the neighborhood. She explains that although drugs and prostitution plague the neighborhood and there are times of clear examples of intercultural struggle, there are also many examples of respect and peaceful coexistence.
Our tour takes us further into the neighbourhood and we arrive to a mosque opened in 1998. Abdallah invites us to remove our shoes and to follow him inside. He explains us the complex system of schedules the mosque works with and how the communities who pray at the mosque are from different nationalities. During the holidays the women can use the second floor to pray. The mosque does not receive aid from the municipality for maintenance and therefore the maintenance of the place is done by members of the community.
Further down the street, we cross la Calle de las Beatas, something of a red light district.
Time is running out for today and we decide to stop for a tea at the Café al Futuro.
The name of the bar: Futuro (Future) sparked our last discussion of the day, and appropriately ended our immersion in the neighbourhood.
A big thanks to all the participants and people of San Diego for the experience and great North in the South