The Parks of Santa Marta
It’s evening in the Parque de los Novios / Parque Santander in Santa Marta’s historical district. The heat and humidity have subsided considerably, making jeans bearable to those strolling about. In the distance you can hear the motorcycles, cabs, and buses blaring at each other on 4th and 5th avenues up the street, but it is does not seem to bother couples sitting on benches, making it easy to see why the park is named after boyfriends and girlfriends. In the center of the park is a prominent statue of Francisco de Paula Santander, who was acting President of Gran Colombia between 1819 and 1826 and was known as “The Man of the Laws”. Aside from the ground lights portraying President Santander’s statue, the park’s lighting provides an intimate and private setting for all to enjoy.
As dusk settles in, the air carries the delicious smells of all the delicacies Parque de los Novios has to offer. In the northwest corner of the park is one of Santa Marta’s gourmet restaurants, Donde Chucho, specializing in Colombian seafood. Moving to the northeast corner of the park is Radio Burger. It sits in the building where Santa Marta’s first radio station was in the 1930’s, providing explanation to the decorative old radios and records adorning the walls. The building also had an open air stage facing out to the park for the public to enjoy comedians. Just as it was in the past, the present features all types of street performers entertaining diners, the park’s couples, and pedestrians alike. Moving from the northeast to the southeast, you are presented with no shortage of options. There is the Café Bar Parque de los Novios, the Greek style restaurant Ouzo, Hemmingway restaurant and bar, among others. On the southern side of the park is the back of the Palacio de Justicia.
Northbound along 3rd avenue towards Parque Simon Bolivar from Parque de los Novios provides visitors with no shortage of additional dining options and night life. Exiting the avenue onto 15th street, the city opens up to Parque Simon Bolivar. The park is much larger than Parque de los Novios and doesn’t have the intimate qualities. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have its charms, as it is host to a beautiful statue of Simon Bolivar, commemorating where he lived his last days. Around the park also can be found the Mayor’s House and other administrative buildings. As some people lounge about, others take part in impromptu Zumba classes, providing the park with energetic music. The park also has beautiful floral arrangements.
A Walk along First Avenue
Heading west out of Parque Simon Bolivar before the Caribbean Sea is 1st avenue. First avenue is a one way street running north to south. Across the street from Parque Simon Bolivar is a statue of Santa Marta, Rodrigo de Bastidas. He founded the city in 1525, making Santa Marta the first city founded by Spanish conquistadors in Latin America. North of the statue lies the Port of Santa Marta populated with Maersk shipping containers. South of Parque Simon Bolivar and east across 1st avenue from the statue of Rodrigo de Bastidas is one of Santa Marta’s more modern commercial structures, the Centro Comercial Tesoro del Mar shopping mall. The mall is comprised of chic restaurants, stylish clothing stores, and a casino.
As one walks with traffic southbound adjacent to the sea, there is no shortage of street vendors trying to sell their range of goods that include local indigenous crafts, juices, beers, snacks, ice cream, shoe shine services, and tourist trips to Parque Tayrona and other locales outside the city. This wide walkway is also made up of statues commemorating the Arhuako, Kogui, Tayrona, and other indigenous populations. The larger than life statues prove popular to tourists as they take turns posing for pictures. On the east side of 1st avenue in between various restaurants and craft stores is the Governor’s House of the Department of Magdalena. Locals eye it as they pass by, wondering who will win the seat of governance on Sunday, October 25th when the country votes in congressional, gubernatorial, and municipal elections.
The Governor’s House flanked by statues commemorating the Arhuako, Kogui, Tayrona, and other indigenous populations
Further south along first avenue the wide walkway with the statues commemorating the native populations gives way to a narrower sidewalk. The sidewalk now borders the local beach in Santa Marta, where bathers of all ages are enjoying the water. Kids in uniform practice fútbol as their coaches watch for technique, while fishermen return for the day. Jutting out into the sea is one of the docks for the Santa Marta Marina. In addition to housing the yachts, there is a two story building made up of various restaurants and bars. The views from the marina are spectacular in all directions, with views of the port to the north, Santa Marta’s seafront to the east, condominiums and restaurants to the south, and the sea to the west. As is the case with most places in Santa Marta and its surrounding villages, it is best to enjoy the marina at sunset.