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The forgotten history of Taganga

Spending a few days in Taganga allowed us to get to know some of its people and experience the power of a collective strength that beats beyond prejudice and indifference.

When I was on my way to this fishing village of 6.000 people on the Colombian Caribbean coast, for some reason, people warned me: nice beaches, hippies, sex and drugs, that’s what you’ll find.

Far from that, I was going there because I had been invited by a local friend to a wonderful cultural event: Taganga Inspira. Teatro y memoria, where locals with little or no stage experience pooled their time and courage to prepare six short pieces of theatre narrating parts of the not so well known oral history of this ancestral village.

“In Colombia we were taught to see the colonists as great royalty. After a few generations, their children’s children now run our country and the oppression continues”.

Carlos, from Diskoncept Foundation

In the last decades, Taganga lived a huge change since tourism started to arrive. Nightlife and entertainment expanded, and some bad influences came to fall on some local businesses that for a time attracted a hostile environment smudged by violence or even sexual exploitation.

In the 60’s this region of Colombia experienced what is known as the Bonança Marimbera,  a time when the production and trafficking of marijuana and cocaine rotted with corruption the great part of institutions and unleashed a wave of violence.

Furthermore, little is said that Taganga was a town of ancestral culture and in fact, it was the first place through which the Spanish colonists entered the South American continent. 

If we add the different historical affectations, taking into account the footprint and the extermination of part of the culture that colonization provoked in this territory, with an educational system that tells the colonial version of the facts and history, a government corroded by corruption, and a hostile environment, it is not surprising that the population develops subsistence dynamics, lacking a sense of belonging and identity.

However, what I found when I arrived there for the first time was a community coming together at this theatrical event (organized by Escuela Internacional de Turismo, which works with local businesses to inspire and promote sustainable tourism) and a lot of people of all ages and backgrounds motivated to enjoy and demonstrate that a cultural Taganga, which seeks to improve and wants to remember and tell its own story, is possible.

In fact, one of the plays that most moved the audience was El Secuestro de la Cacique Taganga, a piece researched and worked by the Diskoncept Foundation team (a foundation committed to the conservation of the ocean and the environment). It tells the real story of the kidnapping of the Taganga’s Cacique, and how the town got united to fight in self-defense, managing to free the cacique from the hands of the Spanish conqueror, Pedro de Ursúa, around the year 1535.

This story moved the entire audience and was received as a symbol of cultural resistance, on a day that promoted the need to remember and honor the past people and to respect and defend the territory that sustains us. An event which I am certain will be followed by many more.