Getting to know Cartagena means getting to know cartageneros: the people of Cartagena de Indias. But since the visitor is only here for a short time, those people ought to be especially conscious of their historical and cultural identity – and also adept at conveying it – if the tourist is to leave with lasting impressions of the unique charm of this place which has lasted so long, weathering so many storms. This goal is at the heart of each tour given by Ester, Fernando,Katty, and Marelvy.
Marelvy Peña-Hall is a tour guide who has been rated as the best tour guide in Cartagena onTripAdvisor. She is completely fluent in English, French and Spanish. In her work as a tour guide she combines the intimate knowledge of a native of Cartagena who is steeped in the city’s centuries-old traditions with an easy familiarity with North American and European people, society and culture, having traveled and lived in both the U.S. and France.
After completing her studies in languages, Marelvy polished her skills in French by working and studying in France for a period of two years. Marelvy’s chief interests along with the study of languages are in the arts – in particular, dance – and in education. At the age of 13 she began a career spanning two decades of performing the folkloric dances of Colombia, especially those of the Caribbean coast. Upon returning to Cartagena from France she began teaching French at the university level and at this time married a North American-born painter so that for the past twenty nine years her study of English has been constant as well.
After ten years Marelvy retired from teaching and went into guide work while at the same time dedicating herself to the homeschooling of her bilingual children and, in collaboration with her husband, to the writing of an extensive and innovative bilingual history book which will be published soon.
Marelvy’s team of seasoned professional guides includes Ester Olivo, Katty Sarmiento, and Fernando Lopez.
Ester Olivo heard her first stories about life in her native city from her grandparents when she was still a young child and out of this fascination with the city’s history she developed a passion for learning more and more about it and a talent for sharing what she learns in unique detail with visitors to Cartagena de Indias. Ester acquired her language skills while living and working in the north for years. In Canada she was trained in customer service by Canadian tour operators and in the United States she has maintained long term personal relationships and she travels to the States at least once a year. Ester has twenty years of experience working as a tour guide in Cartagena. She is also fluent in French and, like her colleagues Marelvy, Fernando and Katty, she is always careful to keep her services adaptable to client’s needs and preferences.
Fernando Lopez has been a tour guide in Cartagena for 20 years. He speaks four languages in addition to his mother tongue Spanish: English, Italian, French, and Portuguese. He is expert not only in giving historical and cultural tours and night tours to interact with locals, but also in leading excursiones into outlying areas where the visitor can experience the natural environs and small towns of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Bird watchers, for instance, will find him surprisingly knowledgeable and observant.
Katty Sarmiento has been guiding tourists on group tours and private tours in and around Cartragena for more than ten years. Her work with visitors to the city grew out of her life long interest in Cartagena’s history and her study of English which she taught at the high school level for several years. She is also fluent in Portuguese. Katty is known for her enthusiasm, good vibes, and sense of humour — all of which are contagious.