Friday, October 5, 2007

The Palace of Pain

October 5, 2007 Friday

First of all, a very Happy Birthday wish for our grandson Zachary.  Zach is 7 years old today!  Hard to believe; he is growing up so fast.

Now; the rest of this log and the accompanying photos are definitely not for children.

Today we visited the Palacio de la Inquisicion, a/k/a the Palace of Pain.  As noted in our previous log, the Palace of the Inquisition was a feared Punishment Tribunal in the 18th century.  Heretics were condemned and executed here for “crimes” such as magic, witchcraft and blasphemy.  Well…..okay….that might be the politically correct description of this place and the practices that occurred here, but in my mind this people were just plain crazy and sick.  They committed unspeakable horrors with ruthless abandon, all with the approval of the Church.  The Inquisition might have started out with good intentions (I will give the Church the benefit of doubt on that thought), but it very quickly became a means of eliminating anyone who fell out of favor with those in political power as well as those within the power of the Church at the local level.

According to our tour guide, the Inquisition began in Cartagena in 1610 and continued until 1811.  So for a period of 201 years, the local priests tortured and murdered countless people.  There is not an accurate tally of those murdered during this time by the Church, but it is generally assumed not to be a small number.  And it was so darn easy to get rid of anyone you disliked or who was causing you business troubles or political troubles or even private troubles!  

The Palace of Pain was originally constructed as a private home.  It was gorgeous; you can tell from what remains today that it was a very expensive home.  The priests took it over and turned it into torture chambers.  They began using the Windows of Denouncement on one side exterior wall.  There was a small opening beneath a cross between the windows.  This opening was the perfect height for an annonymous person on horseback to ride up during the dark of night and deposit the written name of a person he wished to be accused of witchcraft or heresy.  These names were later read from the windows by a priest with a green cross being held above his head.  The accused were rounded up and brought to the Palace and “interrogated” for their alleged crime; again with that dreaded green cross being held above their head.  It was extremely rare indeed for an individual to leave the Palace of Inquisition alive!  If you were brought there, you were pretty much considered toast!

 For people accused of witchery (usually women) there were a number of “proofs” to which they were subjected.  It was a no-win situation.  If you survived the proofs, then you were a witch.  If you died during the proofs, then you were a witch.  MEN!!!

The first proof was usually the weighing chair/platform.  They would weigh the accused witch on a suspended wooden seating platform.  If they weighed lightly (and most women living at that time in the heat of non-air-conditioned Cartagena and forced to wear heavy dresses were very thin), then that proved they were a witch.  After all, every man knew that witches didn’t weigh much because they had to be light so that they could fly around at night in the form of an owl.  Unbelievable today to think that any sane person could believe that crap!

Anyway, it was only downhill from the weighing chair.  There were also knotted rope whips to endure and forked tongs to rip breasts away from the chest wall and suspended dunking procedures and the list of torture goes on and on.  The best one could hope for was a quick death.  If one actually survived the “proofs” then that person (woman) was taken out into the area that is now Plaza Simon Bolivar and was publicly burned to death.  Man, sure didn’t want to piss off the wife of your lover back then!  She could anonymously turn in your name as a suspected witch…..after all you must have witched her husband to get him to seduce you in the first place.  Or your rival for a man’s attention; same story.  Lots of scenarios where perfectly innocent people could be accused and then tortured to death for absolutely no reason.  This whole Inquisition thing was so senseless.

When the Spanish first arrived in the area of South America that is now known as Cartagena, they found a tribe of people called the Kalamary.  The Kalamary were quite different from the earlier Zenu (the relatively peaceful goldsmiths and farmers who tamed the floodplains and rivers so successfully about 1500 years before the Spanish arrived).  The Kalamary were cannibals.  They lived in villages of raised homes that were built of vertical stakes with thatched roofs.  The villages were encircled by high stake walls.  It did not take long for the diseases of the white European man to ravage the population of the Kalamary.  The Spanish did not have a difficult time taking control of this area of South America.  Then the fun with all the gold and the grave robbing for gold started.

Cartagena was established and was the clearing center for all the gold.  Gold was brought north from Chile and Peru in boats to the area of what is now Panama.   This was far easier and faster than the mountainous overland route. The gold was off-loaded and brought by land to the Caribbean side of the isthmus, where it was re-loaded on another Spanish ship and brought to Cartagena.  Later, the gold was loaded on anther ship and eventually shipped back to Spain, following the trade wind route up through the Belize or Jamaica area to Florida/Bahama/Bermuda area and onward across the Atlantic.  Often they stopped in the San Augustine area of Florida to also pick up whatever treasure had been found in North America.  The Spanish were great looters.

Since all this gold was passing through Cartagena, this made Cartagena the perfect target for pirates.  And the pirates came down in droves.  Everyone was stealing from everyone for awhile.  Pirates attached Cartagena, and they were rebuked by “The Half Man.”  The Half Man (sorry, don’t remember his real name) was called that because he arrived in Cartagena from Spain with a missing eye, a missing leg, and a missing arm --- so he was only half a man in the eyes of the locals.  But half a man or not, he was strong enough to command the city and repel the pirates for quite a few years.

All this other history was happening during the same time period as the Inquisition.  And the other history is far more interesting and less stomach-turning.  I won’t go into a full history lesson on this blog because you can research all this stuff yourself if interested.

After the Inquisition museum we went to Crepes & Waffles for lunch.  This place had been highly recommended by other yachties.  I had a French bread bowl filled with chunks of the most tender chicken breast that I have ever put into my mouth with a creamy sauce and asparagus with sliced mushrooms.  It was wonderful.  Bill had a French bread bowl filled with chunks of veal in some kind of rosemary seasoned sauce.  Also good, but he thought he was ordering a pannini sandwich (these were called panne on the menu) so he was a bit surprised when they served him a bread bowl.  His 2 bottles of Aguila cerveza tempered his surprise and he enjoyed the lunch.  Crepes & Waffles is known for their ice cream.  They have an extensive menu book displaying the fanciest ice cream deserts you can imagine.  Looked great but we were already full of bread bowls, so we passed on the ice cream on this visit.  Maybe we will make it back over there before we leave Cartagena.  Oh, and I also had a glass of the weirdest ice tea ever.  When I saw ice tea on the menu, I had to order it; one so very rarely finds ice tea in the places we have visited during the past 17 months.  This tea was very, very dark brown; had a layer of foam on top and a large flat piece of strange looking ice floating just below the foam; and was incredibly sweet and limey.  Absolutely nothing like any ice tea that I have ever had before.  Not sure I would order it again as I prefer tea that is much weaker and without sugar.  Now I know to be leery if ice tea is on any menu here.

We wanted to also visit the Naval Museum but could not find it today.  Also searched for the tourist information office which is supposed to be near the clock tower but never found that either.  By the time we have finished lunch it was beginning to drizzle rain, so we hailed a taxi and came home to the boat.  Another good day.

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