For a few blocks near the Plaza de la Santísima Trinidad in the Getsemaní neighborhood of Cartagena, Colombia, the legend of Pedro Romero lives. On the streets surrounding the plaza and its church, elaborate works of street art adorn the walls paying tribute to Pedro Romero, the hero of Cartagena’s independence movement for the people of Getsemaní.
Born in Matanzas, Cuba in the 1740s, Pedro Romero was a free man of color, likely of mixed African and European descent. Though little is known of Romero’s early life, he worked as a gunsmith and master blacksmith in Cartagena’s arsenal in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and also ran a foundry at the entrance to the barrio of Getsemaní, home to the many of Cartagena’s slaves and free people of color.
In 1810, José Ignacio de Pombo described Romero and his son by stating “We have in the master Pedro Romero, and his son Stephen, two intelligent artists in this profession [Blacksmithing], or better yet, two intelligent men that the force of their genius…has elevated to a degree of perfection and delicacy that is truly admirable.” As an artisan, Romero had significant contact with Cartagena’s white creole and Spanish elite (particularly in the form of military contracts), allowing him to establish a reputation for himself in Cartagena as a respectable pardo. Continue reading