Every November 1, angels take to the streets of Cartagena de las Indias, the heroic city in Colombia.
Boys and girls, youth and adults travel in groups, bringing with them pots, lids and sticks as they move through the streets of La Heroica in honor of one of the most representative traditions of our independence festivities – los ángeles somos (angels, we are).
During this traditional celebration, adults, children and youth go door to door with a pot handy to collect the ingredients needed to prepare the delicious sancocho (a traditional coastal soup) and share it with family, friends and neighbors.
As the event begins, Cartagena‘s tiny streets are filled with singing and smiles. Caribbean warmth fills the air when children and youth sing the popular choruses of the “anthem” of the Day of the Angels:
“Ángeles somos del cielo venimos,
pidiendo limosnas pá nosotros mismo,
tintilillo tintilillo cinco pesos pá mi bolsillo,
no te late, no te late
que el bollo está en el escaparate,
no te rías, no te rías, que la mochila esta vacía.”
“Angels we are, from heaven we come,
asking for alms fo’ ourselves alone.
Crickety crocket five bucks fo’ my pocket.
Feel it beat? Feel it beat?
Seeing that hottie at the dressing table.
Don’t laugh, don’t laugh, that the backpack is empty.”
Some neighbors give away plantains, potatoes, carrots, cilantro, onions, meat and stock. Any food is well received, and the following is sung in appreciation to the donor: “Este casa es de arroz donde vive el Niño Dios!” “This house is made of rice, [it is] where Baby God (Jesus) lives!”
Those who don’t provide anything because they don’t have anything to give are punished by a special song: "Esta casa es de agujas donde viven todas las brujas! Esta casa es de ají donde viven los cují!” “This house is made of needles, where witches live! This house is made of chili peppers, where selfish people live!”
This tradition comes from our grandparents’ time, and many feared it would be lost. Thanks to the work of cultural preservation groups, though, this part of the city’s heritage was saved. Today, Cartagena’s residents celebrate the day with their famed exuberance and joy.
In fact, this tradition has gained so much importance to Cartageneros, that in April 2007, our government declared November 1 the official day for Cartagena’s cultural traditions – a day when colors, songs, games, dances and other traditional traits of the city can be seen, showing once again the essence of the Caribbean people. It’s a day when white is the dominant color, leaving behind the dark colors of Halloween.
The Day of the Angels also survives due to the support of city schools, foundations and organizations that encourage participation in this cultural celebration.
Each year, Children International – Cartagena does its part to support this tradition. We encourage sponsored children and youth to learn about the meaning of the tradition and to actively participate in it.
With this encouragement, Cartagena’s streets are filled with angels without wings…but full of smiles, humility, warmth and community values that make this day unforgettable.