Monumento Unión de los Océanos, Cartagena’s Seaside Monument

The monument on the backdrop of Cartagena’s coastline

photography by: Omri Westmark

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While Planet Earth owes its name to the land we all live on, it might as well be called “Water” given that more than 70 percent of its surface is covered by the elixir of life. As a tribute to the world’s blue expanses, the UN opted to designate 1998 as the “Year of the Ocean”, raising awareness among earthlings for the looming threats the oceans are facing. In the very same year, the coastal city of Cartagena erected a monument that pays homage to the five oceans of the world, something which highlighted its staunch commitment to being in the forefront of this global endeavor.

Since the dawn of human civilization, oceans have played a major role in shaping history, serving as a source of livelihood for millions and a natural barrier that kept empires separated from each other. Despite their sheer importance, in recent decades, marine environments across the world have encountered multiple menaces, including pollution, global warming and the proliferation of microplastics.


It is for these reasons that in 1998, the UN launched a global campaign entitled “International Year of the Ocean”, during which the risks to this delicate world would be spotlighted and discussed alongside a plethora of activities, ranging from scientific conferences to educational journeys into the open seas.


Concurrently, tourist-thronged Cartagena decided to commemorate this event in a rather different way. Nestled along the Caribbean Sea, the Colombian city boasts a rich maritime history that largely defines its modern-day character. To reflect the citywide affinity to the nearby ocean, the then mayor of Cartagena, Nicolás Curi, commissioned during that year the construction of an eye-catching monument.


Located directly on the waterfront, along Avenida Santander, Monumento Unión de los Océanos (the Union of the Oceans Monument) is centered around a pair of rectangular slabs covered by colorful mosaic tiles, which in turn cradle together a spherical bronze sculpture of the Earth, representing the planet and its life-giving oceans.


Alongside the plates are a pavement stone decorated with a compass rose, a plaque in honor of Nobel prize laureate Gabriel García Márquez’s “Story of a Shipwrecked”, and two anchors, one originally belongs to a Spanish vessel while the other was once part of a Colombian navy ship. The centerpiece of this seaside monument, however, is a 35-meter-long walkway that juts out to the ocean and culminates in an elevated viewing platform, from where visitors can gaze at the surrounding blueness, completely unimpededly.