Colombia is home to about 20% of the world’s birds. The bird immortalized in painting and sculpture around Cartagena is the Maria Mulata. A medium-sized bird of iridescent black or brown, Maria Mulata is neither blackbird or raven. Maria Mulata’s official name is the great- tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus).
The story of Maria Mulata is a traditional tale shared with Two Who Trek by several local residents. Long ago, in the barrio of Getsemani, people and exotic animals co-existed. One of the animals was a vividly colored bird called Maria Mulata. When a raging fire overtook the neighborhood, Maria Mulatas carried the people to safety. The people were saved and forever grateful to their deliverers. Discolored by the fire and smoke, the bird’s colorful feathers remain blackened to this day but with proper sunlight, we can still see a hint of Maria Mulata’s former plumage.
Several artistic works in the historical center of Cartagena celebrate Maria Mulata’s valor. Teatro Heredia, also known as Mejia Navarro Teatro, was refurbished in 1988 and is stunningly beautiful. Local artist Enrique Grau painted a mural that features the nine muses of the arts dancing in a circle, protecting the integrity of the arts from the ceiling vantage point of the Teatro Heredia. Maria Mulatas dance among the muses.
On the main floor, the stage curtain painted by Grau reminds patrons of the city’s historical figures like India Catalina and legendary ones like Maria Mulata.
Outside the walled city, in Getsemani, Yurikauno painted a Maria Mulata mural showing the birds emerging colors from a golden edifice background.
Here are a few other photos of the best known bird in Cartagena de Indias. Enjoy!