The Indian Catalina was one of the most relevant characters in the history of Cartagena. Photo: Wikicommons
She is one of the most important characters in the history of Cartagena. Photo: Wikicommons

Who was India Catalina?

Learn about the history of India Catalina, one of the main characters in the history of Cartagena.


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India Catalina is one of the most emblematic characters of the history of Cartagena, although little known about her. The slender woman has a statue in the city that reminds everyone who passes by of the mission she had during the time of the Spanish conquest and founding of Cartagena. 

The story of the India Catalina begins when she was just a child with of her tribe. Daughter of an important chief, she was kidnapped by the Spaniards around 1509, in one of the first incursions they made along the Caribbean coasts, which were characterized by their violence against the Indigenous populations. 

Although not many details are known about her, the young Catalina was a key piece in the conquest of the Native Americans who lived there before the Spaniards. Twenty years after her kidnapping, she collaborated with the Spaniards to achieve a greater understanding with the natives and helped with their evangelization, as she had learned the Spanish language and could communicate between both groups.

In 1532, Pedro de Heredia from Madrid signed capitulations with the Spanish Crown to conquer and populate an area near Santa Marta and was granted the right to receive "two Indian slaves for languages" from the neighboring government, which he used to take Catalina. 

Thanks to her knowledge of the language and customs of the natives, Catalina gradually managed to appease many people so they would accept the newly arrived Spaniards and the God they proclaimed as unique and true.

Her memory remains very much alive in Cartagena. Some call her "Malinche," not only for her fundamental role as a translator at the service of the Spaniards, but also for having helped them conquer that part of Colombia. Her work contributed to reduced number of deaths and battles between the Spaniards and the Native Americans that populated the territory.

India Catalina Awards

Today, the memory of India Catalina is kept alive in a symbolic way through the India Catalina Awards, a contest that takes place within the framework of the Cartagena International Film Festival, to highlight and reward the effort, quality and talent of television productions in Colombia.

The deadline for entries was Feb. 16 for all those interested in registering in each of the 39 categories of the event, which is in its 38th edition this year. 

The awards ceremony will be held on March 20 at the Cartagena International Film Festival (FICCI), which returns in-person for its 61st edition.


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