Ciénaga is located on the Caribbean Sea below the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range, known for its rich variety of landscapes and well-preserved architecture.
Ciénaga is an important urban centre for the Magdalena department, boasting republican-era architecture that is the best representation of the ‘banana splendour’ associated with this region’s agricultural wealth. Institutional buildings and estate houses are prominent, revealing the wealth enjoyed by banana plantation owners.
Colombia expresses a dizzying present with multiple pasts and a life-loving frivolity interwoven by tragedy. Its chronicler is Gabriel Garcia Márquez. Some would say it was Cienaga and not Aracataca that provided the real inspiration for Macondo in One Hundred Years of Solitude.
“The Bananera Monument!” our young tour guide Raul points to a steel structure lifting a lean sculpture so high in the sky that you can miss it from as close as the surging square where it stands. “Do you know about the massacre?” he asks. The massacre. It is said that it has remained forgotten since that night on December 5, 1928, when 3,000 striking United Fruit Company banana workers armed with machetes marched to the main square by the train station. But the military was waiting for them there and sprung a trap, systematically mowing them down with machine gun fire.
A monument was indeed erected for the dead, but the plaque explaining why it was erected in the first place disappeared – just like the wealth that had transformed Cienaga into a den of iniquity for a few years and was even good enough for Europe’s finest. The rich colonial facades are still clearly recognizable under the layers of coloured paint.
It appears as if solitude has returned and is undisturbed by the chatter emanating from passing tour groups. But this is not even where you will discover its charm and insights. It is more about the perceived present composed of different pasts – time seems at once to stand still and move in circles.
The Malecón is the new beach esplanade. Cienaga is experiencing a resurgence. The government’s support for the tourism sector is helping to restore public spaces and infrastructure. This construction activity is enhancing the potential of the seafront and its surrounding areas, promising to serve as an engine of activity, well-being, and development. It also hopes to improve the economy along with cultural and leisure activities. Moreover, the environment and upgrade of the nearby beaches are crucial in efforts to improve the quality of life for the local population and strengthen the strategic relationship of the natural environment with the surrounding region.
The beach, sea and sun, along with the colonial architecture, make Ciénaga a place to be venerated. To stroll along the Cienaguero means becoming part of a special culture. Belonging to this place evokes proud smiles, the aromas and hot climate make the community a pleasant place that draws you in and is worthy of discovery.
Cienaga is focusing on developing ecological, cultural, and heritage tourism of indisputable value. The historic centre, an architectural mosaic featuring the church of San Juan Bautista, Centennial square, El Templete, the Freemason’ lodge, the “Devil’s House”, and a variety of republic-era buildings, testimony to the city’s old tobacco and banana booms, was declared a national heritage site in the early 1990s.