What are you doing to help heal Cartagena?

Posted: 27 Mar, 2020

We’re trapped. We have been confined along with our dreams, goals and illusions. With the global emergency caused by COVID-19, we have hit rock bottom.

The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s only one place to go from here. The only thing we have left now is to make a great staircase in which one by one, we can get back to somewhere considered safe ground. Many people have already understood it that way. There are good people out there who have begun to replace fear and resignation with hope. Where others feel only fear, these people are being driven by their imagination, finding creativity where others see only crisis.

For an unfriendly situation, a friendly face

María Cecilia Restrepo is one of those people. This cook by profession, along with other colleagues, has followed the example of Margarita Bernal, to create a movement that helps her Instagram users cook easy and delicious meals with whatever they have on hand at home.

Due to the state of quarantine, most restaurants have closed their doors. Restaurants in Cartagena de Indias have not been the exception. So we’ve all started, as we did in the past, to cook once again.

Living in a state of isolation is a lot more pleasant if we cook and eat well, it’s even better if you follow the top tips of María Cecilia’s better known as La Chechi, to recreate the magic and flavour of Caribbean cuisine. 

Promoting self-love, well being, money saving and celebrating the goodness of healthy eating are some of the objectives of La Chechi.

Life at the service of others

This is not the first time that Chechi has put her knowledge at the service of others. Before, she worked with the Fundación Acción Interna, a non-profit organization that works with inmates in different prisons in the country, changing lives through the kitchen.

In the Interno restaurant, located in the women’s prison known for its proximity to the San Diego neighborhood in Cartagena, she taught prisoners about the wonderful culinary world of Cartagena and the Caribbean. Today, the majority of her team of workers is made up of her former students.

And…. What are you doing for Cartagena?

In Cartagena de Indias, the hospitality industry, tourism which includes restaurants, bars and cafes feeds 30% of the population.

The city’s top eateries and bars have all been hit by the harsh economic effects of the virus.

Today, Cartagena’s restaurants are adrift coming to terms with the impact of the C-bomb on the local economy. Most have shut up shop, packed their staff home on unpaid leave while they watch the Pope and hope for a miracle from the comfort of a friend’s place in the islands. 

Thankfully Rappi is still working so we can get food sent to our houses.

Surely Chechi isn’t the only story of hope. In periods of the crisis throughout history, it is then that people are most likely to reinvent themselves. It’s in these moments, when against all odds, we’re at our best no? Because even when there seems to be nothing left, there is always something we can do to mitigate the effects on ourselves and those around us.

To all our friends and allies in Cartagena’s culinary scene – Celele, Marea by Raush, Carmen, Don Juan, María, La Vitrola, Caffe Lunatico, La Cocina de Pepina, Candé, Juan del Mar, we want to hear what you’re doing to change the conversation from fear to hope. 

Send us your stories. Don’t leave Chechi to do it all alone. Time to follow her lead and set an example for others to follow.

This Is 4U Cartagena wants to know what are you doing? Send us your stories. Share with us your ideas on how we’re going to build a better, stronger Cartagena, a city better prepared for a post-virus future. 

We’re all ears, anything that you think can contribute to the city. All ideas welcome. We’re here to share them with the world. The best examples will be shared on This Is 4U Cartagena

Perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up from this nightmare and realise it was all just a terrible dream. Maybe we won’t. Maybe the only way we can wake up from this nightmare is by recognising that the world has changed forever, and that doesn’t mean that it can’t be better than we imagine it today. What are you doing to make that happen?   

There is hope / Photo: Stephanie Bonin
Written by: Emilio Cabarcas
Photography by:
Other credits: Photography by: Stephanie Bonin (@latropikitchen)
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