I paused on a steamy February afternoon in Cartagena’s Plaza Santo Domingo. In the square’s center, tourists dined on fresh seafood and coconut rice at umbrella-shaded tables. At its edge was the 16th century Santo Domingo Church, whose twisted tower is — local legend has it — the result of the devil’s failed attempt to demolish the sanctuary.
Touts beckoned passersby into gleaming boutiques, while stray dogs, hoping for table scraps, competed with street musicians for the diners’ attention.
The plaza encapsulates the contrasts in this historic Colombian seaport on the Caribbean: Old World versus New, sunny leisure in the shadow of evil spirits, palpable hunger in the face of abundance.
It was also a fitting starting point for “The Cartagena of Gabriel García Márquez,” an audio tour released this year and the first of its kind to explore the Nobel Prize-winning author’s strong ties to the city.
García Márquez, a native of Aracataca on Colombia’s north coast, portrayed Cartagena’s many charms and complexities in novels set here, most notably “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “Of Love and Other Demons.” I had come to Cartagena for a monthlong stay, lured, in part, by the author’s seductive depiction of the city — a place of “amethyst afternoons and nights of antic breezes.”