Published: Saturday 1st November 2014 by The News Editor
Colombians gave the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall some much-needed protection from the blazing sun – his and hers sombreros.
Charles and Camilla tried on their gifts and posed for a picture as they toured an exhibition showcasing traditional crafts from across the Latin American country.
The black and white hats, made from woven palm leaves, are called Vueltiao and are worn by peasants and cattle ranchers from the coast.
But no sooner had the royal visitors donned the headgear than the heavens opened and a short shower sent well-wishers outside running for cover.
When the Prince and Duchess first arrived at the event in the old walled city of the coastal resort of Cartagena they received a Caribbean welcome.
Young dancers and musicians from an after-school music club in the deprived La Boquilla neighbourhood staged a performance for them.
Schoolboy John Carlos Gomez, 12, sang a song for the guests, backed by host of drummers.
And one of the adult members, Cecilia Silva Caraballo, sang a song – while dressed in a colourful outfit worn by women from Cartagena known as as Palenqueras, after a district in their home city.
Charles and Camilla were visiting a gold museum showcasing fabulous treasures from the Latin American nation’s early history.
Artisans had set up their wares In an internal courtyard and gave demonstrations of making everything from the Vueltiao sombreros to brightly coloured mochilla bags and hammocks created by a tribe called the Wayuu.
The royal couple accepted the gift of the hats after one of the artisans had explained how they were made.
Later Manuel Pertuz showcased his skills as a wood carver with the finished products on a stand nearby – brightly painted animal heads from leopards to bulls.
They were also miniature versions of headdresses worn during a famous four-day Colombian carnival called Barranuilla which is held in February.
Mr Pertuz said of the royal visitors: “Having them here is a real unique experience for us and gives us real satisfaction. It’s great for us to be able to demonstrate what we produce to the whole world.
“It shows the cultural diversity across all the regions and its brilliant the royal couple are interested in what we do.”
As they left, Charles and Camilla crossed the street to a park to meet some Colombians and shook hands with them through the railings.
During the day Charles and Camilla learnt about the efforts of the Colombian authorities to tackle the drug cartels and guerrilla groups who for many years have made the country a major producer of cocaine.
Submarines used by drug smugglers to move narcotics off the Latin American nation were shown to the royal couple after they had a private briefing about the work of the UK’s National Crime Agency with Colombia to tackle the major problem.
On the quayside at a naval base in Cartagena, coastguards displayed four submarines that had been seized since 1994.
Two sophisticated vessels were on land and the interior of one, captured off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, was visible as a hole had been cut in its side showing the pilot’s controls and the large interior.
Charles walked along a short gangplank to see a sub in the water that had been converted from a boat and fitted with ballast tanks and other equipment.
Later, a failed 18th century battle by British forces to capture Cartagena when it was under Spanish rule was commemorated by the royal couple.
In the shadow of the imposing San Felipe fort that withstood British efforts to take it in 1741, Charles and Camilla unveiled a plaque to the 8,000 troops who died.
It was part of a nine-year conflict known as The War of Jenkins’ Ear involving Spain and Britain, and was a huge naval campaign that involved more than 180 ships and 27,000 men.
Charles tried speaking a few words of Spanish when he addressed a conference convened to examine the issue of the sustainability of the Caribbean Sea.
Sounding confident, he told delegates meeting at Cartagena’s Naval Museum: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure for me to be again in Cartagena, to be present here with all of you here.”
He then added in English: “That’s far enough” to laughter from the audience.
The event was organised by the Presidential Co-operation Agency and the Prince’s International Sustainability Unit to discuss and agree proposals to improve the health of the Caribbean, which is critical to the livelihoods, food security, carbon sequestration and economic stability of the region.
After Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had highlighted some of the issues, Charles said: “We each depend upon Nature’s benevolence, whether on land or, as is being discussed yesterday, in the marine world.
“From what I have seen on this occasion and from all I have come to know about Colombia in the years since my last visit, I have no doubt that your country can play a critical role in the Caribbean, as in the world, in pursuing a much more balanced and environmentally resilient approach.”
He also told the audience: “It seems to me that adopting a regional approach, with ever closer co-ordination and collaboration, is also absolutely vital, particularly if you realise that the oceans and seas on which so many depend are, in fact, a shared resource, as is so clearly illustrated here in the Caribbean – which is why I do hope that the conversations started here in Colombia over the last day and a half will continue to bear fruit – or perhaps fish – in pursuit of a shared vision for a sustainable Caribbean ocean economy based on healthy and productive oceans.
“I must say, I am encouraged to hear of so many good news stories from countries and territories here from around the Caribbean region, such as here in Colombia with your proposed improvement in your Ocean Health Index; Bermuda’s 15-year Sustainable Fisheries Strategy, as well as its granting of safe passage to the humpback whale; and the sustainable management of the Honduran spiny lobster fishery.”
Published: Saturday 1st November 2014 by The News Editor