Archive for the ‘Cartagena Life’ Category

I’m back in Cartagena, where it all started.. I’ll be here for a while, taking in more of the local culture and reacquainting myself with the city.

cartagena 008

Unlike my previous visits – I am going to spend a little time outside of the operating room.

If you haven’t been to the site in a while – you’ll notice, neither have I.  Having a separate Cartagena page was becoming overwhelming, so I have been transitioning it all to a sister site, latinamericansurgery.com.

However, the sites aren’t completely similar.  I admit, we don’t have as many lively debates and outside contributions as before.   I also miss the opportunity to write about a wider range of topics outside of medical tourism but I am still trying to build my audience and I was worried that my site was actually a little too diverse to offer helpful information.  Much of it was scattered over multiple sections.  So you’ll notice that Latin American Surgery is a little more organized – though the volume of pages makes precise organization difficult.

I miss the dialogues we often had here at Cartagena Surgery.  We would often get great feedback from other health care providers, researchers and experts in the field.  It was a lot of fun, and I hope that more experts will start to write in on cardiovascular and other health topics.  In the meantime, I will just keep traveling, learning, working and writing.

I also continue to write about various health care topics over at Examiner.com so if you can’t find it here –  try searching the archives over at the Examiner.


Read Full Post »

with Dr. Pulido (left) and Dr. Barbosa in Cartagena (2010).

I wanted to post an update on a fantastic surgeon (who has since become a good friend).  In fact, Dr. Cristian Barbosa was one of the first surgeons I ever interviewed back in 2010 – and without his encouragement, the first book would have never gotten off the ground.  Maybe not the second book (Bogotá!) either – since once I said the magic words, “Oh – I interviewed Dr. Barbosa in Cartagena last year,” plenty of other surgeons who might not have talked to me – started to take me seriously.

with Dr. Barbosa back in 2010

Ever since then – I try to keep in contact with Dr. Barbosa – he’s a great person and an absolutely phenomenal surgeon, so I email him every so often..

Since my last visit, back in August – Dr. Barbosa has left Hospital Neuvo Bocagrande – and is now operating in Clinica Santa Maria in Sincelejo, Colombia.

Sincelejo is the capital of the state of Sucre, which is part of the Caribbean region of Colombia.  Like most of this part of Colombia – it has a rich history, and was founded back in 1535 in the name of St. Francis de Assis, though it was long inhabited prior to that by native Colombian tribes such as the Zenu.  Unlike nearby Cartagena (125km north), Sincelejo is a more mountainous landscape, and is known for their agriculture, particularly cattle.  (wow – my stomach just rumbled  – must be missing those gourmet Corral burgers, which are my one Colombian indulgence.. Argentina has nothing on Colombian beef.)

Dr. Barbosa is still living in Cartagena and making a three-hour commute to perform life-saving surgery, while he works on creating a new cardiac surgery program back in our favorite seaside city.  (Hopefully, when he does – we’ll be invited back to take a look!)

gate at the entrance to the historic el centro district

sunset in Cartagena, Colombia

Read Full Post »

cobblestone streets in the historic district of Cartagena, Colombia

Summit of the Americas – Cartagena, Colombia

As anticipated, President Obama is receiving some harsh criticisms for the Cuban embargo begun by fellow democrat, President John F. Kennedy in October of 1960.  (Despite the long-standing embargo, the United States remains the fifth largest exporter to the island nation.)

This embargo, which was initiated in response to the Cuban nationalization of private properties as part of the institution of a communist regime, reached full strength in February of 1962, and has continued unabated since then.  In fact, the American embargo was re-affirmed in 1992 with passage of the Cuban Democracy Act, and again in 1996 with Helms – Burton Act which further prevents private American citizens from having business relationships or trade with Cuba.

At the summit, the host of the event, President Juan Manual Santos (Calderon) has been one of the more outspoken critics of this on-going trade policy and public relations nightmare.  President Santos argues, fairly successfully in my opinion, that not only is the embargo an outmoded method of diplomatic negotiation, but that is has been an ineffective one (in inspiring governmental and philosophical change in Cuba.)

President Santos respectfully requests that Obama reconsider the decades old policies of trade embargo. Photo by AP press

This comes after President Obama was embarrassed by a prostitution scandal involving several of his private security detail.  At the time of this writing, eleven members of the secret service along with five members of the military has been openly disciplined, and returned home.

Colombian prostitutes – photo found at multiple sites, including another wordpress blog and http://azizonomics.com/tag/colombian-prostitutes/
(If this is your photo – let me know, so I can give proper credit)

Protests against the United States have been small scale and without injury as small explosives were detonated near the American embassy.

President Obama also fielded criticism on America’s ‘War on Drugs’.  While conceding that the efforts have been a multi-billion dollar failure (with the exception of small scale victories such as the capture/ death of Pablo Escobar in 1994), Obama refused to consider efforts to legalize drugs, as are under discussion in several other nations.

In other news – in a surprise move that may predict more future instability for Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has decided to forgo the summit as he pursues treatment for cancer (in Cuba).  This move leads to intense speculation regarding both the presidential and governmental prognosis in Venezuela.  Previously, President Chavez had been adamant that his cancer was curable and disputed reports of a more serious condition. There are now several media reports that the president has widespread metastasis affecting multiple organs.  (May I suggest that you consider HIPEC, President Chavez?)

Read Full Post »

Big news out of Cartagena, Colombia as Hugo Chavez (Venezuela) and Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales come together with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton along with 30 other member nations for the Summit of the Americas.  Most certainly on the agenda – discussions regarding both Mexico’s and Colombia’s decisions to decriminalize drugs, as well as the continued drug violence affecting both countries.  President Evo Morales’, a former coca grower, position on drugs and the so-called ‘Drug war’ are already well-known.

While Colombia’s crime has decreased dramatically, the reverse is true in certain parts of Mexico* – where the nightly news seems more like Vietnam footage, as reporters discuss caches of guns toted by young teenagers, and Cuidad de Juarez claims the title of ‘Murder capitol of the world.”   Much of this criminal activity has been attributed to illegal drug commerce to the United States leading several countries to blame the USA for creating havoc in their home countries as suppliers attempt to feed the hoards of American drug users.

Tensions between Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba against the United States are unlikely to change as a result of this Summit, but hopes remain.  The summit is also expected to put pressure on the United States regarding the 50-year-old Cuban embargo.

It’s an interesting turn of the tide – as these issues along with the economic problems plaguing the United States (and causing problems globally) put the US at a significant disadvantage.

In related news – here at Cartagena Surgery, readers are asking:

— So how dangerous is Mexico? —

Since I am currently living in a Mexican border city, you’ve picked the right time to ask.

* There are still plenty of safe and beautiful places in Mexico – but it remains a tragedy that the Sinoloa gang / drug activity have resulted in over 47,000 murders in the last five years.  ([To put this into context, let’s do some simply math.. Simple math since I’m a nurse not a statistician, so keep that in mind as you consider the limited variables here.]

1.  Mexico has over a hundred million people (or 1/3 the people of the USA)

with  47,000 murders over five years (or that’s the number that has been widely quoted.)  Divide 47,000 by five = 9,400 people murdered per year.

2.  The US has over 300 million people, and had 18,361 murders in 2007 (last year available by the US census.) So three times the people.  Hmmm.  I can already see that 18,361 divided by three is 6,120. 

3. But to be fair – let’s also look at cummulative average for the US – and compare apples to apples.. (or five years of data to five years of data.)  It’s still not entirely comparable since our latest available data is from 2007.

2007:  18,361

2006: 18,573

2005: 18,124

2004: 17,357

2003: 17,732

for a total of 90,147 murders over five years.  If we divide that by three, we get 30,039 which is only 69% of the murders in Mexico in the same number of years.  Now you can argue it either way – since the USA numbers aren’t current, etc. etc.. but Mexico’s rate IS significantly higher..

So what does that mean for travelers?  It means – stay the heck out of Juarez..  Be extra cautious in Tijuana, and Nuevo Larado – but otherwise,  use caution & commonsense when traveling in other parts of Mexico (like you would any where else!) – and enjoy yourselves.

Read Full Post »

Mother Nature Network, (MNN) a website promoting healthier alternatives and a greener lifestyle recently headlined our own Cartagena as the destination of the week

The article highlights the easy walk-ability of the historic district as well as the healthy, and affordable cuisine of this sea port city. This is just the latest in a series of articles highlighting the historic beauty of this Colombian – Caribbean treasure. Cartagena was also highlighted by Wanderlust magazine as one of their favored destinations earlier this month.  The New York Times also featured Cartagena as a newly ‘re-discovered’ destination.

photo by CNN

This, along with recent economic developments in the tourism industry are encouraging signs of an economic upswing for Colombia, Cartagena and all of Latin America.  Intercontinental Hotels Group is also planning on building several new properties in Colombia – including Bogotá, Barranquilla and Cartagena.

At the same time, Colombia and several nations in Latin America are showing unprecedented growth and strength on the economic markets.  The recent rise of the Colombian peso is only one indicator of the future potential of Colombia as a whole.

Recent reforms have also boosted the government’s tax revenues, and led to an increased credit rating from Standard & Poor.  (If you remember, they recently downgraded the USA’s own rating.)

Foreign investors are interested in more than historic streets, and the sandy beaches of Santa Marta.  Lured by the wealth of natural resources including oil and gas  – they are flocking to this new opportunities in this previously overlooked country.  Colombia, as the third largest producer of oil in Latin America is currently being courted by Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon and Chevron for their large gas reserves.

While the coffee industry has been hurt by flooding last year – Colombian imports were up more than 17%.

Recent arrests of several leaders of FARC along with successful negotiations and changes in drug enforcement legislation, along with President Juan Manual Santos continued popularity help boost the appeal of Colombia to investors.  But – as readers know – finance is not my area of expertise.. So I have asked several financial and economic analysts for their thoughts..

Cartagena skyline - business district

Read Full Post »

Hello magazine says Hello to the beautiful Cartagena de Indias in this new article that highlights the romance and ambience of this charming, coastal city that was founded during the swashbuckling days of pirates and buccaneers..

Cartagena de Indias

In other news (from Colombia Reports) – if you can’t make it to Cartagena right now, don’t worry – the city is taking steps to safeguard and protect its rich history for generations of tourists to come.

Read Full Post »

Five hundred years of history are featured in this full length article in the Miami Herald on Cartagena, Colombia.  The article also mentions several of the must-see sites and destinations in the city.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »