A story that is worth reading
When Don Rodrigo de Bastides, a spirited Andalucían person from Seville, set sail from Cadiz, he never imagined he’d end up as the founder of the very first city in what would later be called South America, or that he’d find a pearl to be converted into a legend by the destiny of mankind.
Although Juan Ojeda discovered the harbor in 1498, it was officially founded by Rodrigo Bastides 23 years later. With the help of the indigenous people inhabiting the valley of the Manzanares River, they built houses made of wood and straw to accommodate the 300 men that arrived on their ships; sailors, adventurers and laborers accompanied by their wives and priests. Considering our older brethren from indigenous ancestral lines, it’s highly improbable we can determine which of the ethnic groups helped with the initial construction of the city’s center. However, considering the valley’s location, they were probably the Matunas; friendly, curious and always dressed in robes decorated with gold. Their simplest garments were adorned with twelve pieces of metal, an astounding quantity in today’s world.
However, pirates and filibusters infiltrated this Caribbean coast,
along with Cartagena de Indias. French, English and Dutch pirates attacked the city during the 16th and 17th centuries, destroying peaceful living and making robbery, suffering and insecurity a part of Santa Martha’s daily bread. The remains of the original city disappeared entirely after it was burned more than 20 times
….including all of its ruins.
Attacks on the city by arson were common, historians make reference to the 3 of December, 1655, when the English vice-admiral William Goodson and Juan Cuchillo, a Spanish pirate and renegade, attacked, burned and held it in their possession for 15 long days, Three years later, the English navigator, Edward Doyley, and the pirate, Cristobal Mings, repeated this same act of arson that left, like a deja vu, almost two centuries of Samarian history in a limbo of ruins and ashes.
One wing of Santo Domingo’s convent, the plot of land where Don
Pepe’s hotel was built, miraculously survived despite pirate attacks and the historical earthquake of 1834. On the 22 of May of that year at
2am, the entire city was almost destroyed by the trembling earth. The same earthquake happened again on the 24th, finishing off the buildings left standing. Yet this house didn’t fall.
No doubt part of the miracle behind the resilience of the house was the mathematician and military engineer, Don Antonio de Arevalo y Esteban, who at some time during 1742 and 1753, was summoned to Santa Martha by the Slavic Viceroy to strengthen the structure of the walls. We are reminded that Don Antonio de Arevalo was in charge of strengthening the walls, castles and Domes of Cartagena after the English attack in 1741.
Another historical event occurred that added to the magic and culture of this house: the honorable remains of the Freedom Fighter, Simon Bolivar, were rescued from being thrown into the sea.
The modern and conceptual history of the hotel’s construction introduces us to Don Jose Benito Vives, who purchased the house in
1996. He passed away three months later without knowing the beauty of the place he had acquired that now receives guests from around the entire world. Everyone who visits Don Pepe carries away with them the memories of its splendid construction and the stories it contains.