The Walls of Cartagena
by Julia Durango
Simon & Schuster, 2008. 150pgs. Historical Fiction.
Amadeo de Angola is a slave, but luckier than most. After his mother died on a slave ship in the harbor as he was being born, he was taken in by Dona Isabel, a wealthy citizen of Cartagena de Indias, who gave him every advantage, including education. Nicknamed Calepino for his facility with languages, he often finds himself away from the safety of Dona Isabel's home, as he is called upon to translate for Father Pedro, a priest whose life is devoted to ministering to the slaves coming in to the Colony. On one of his trips to a slave ship, Calepino helps a mother and son who subsequently need his help to escape from a cruel master to the safety of a hidden community of escaped slaves. Calepino's work with a Jewish doctor in a leper colony gives him a chance to help Mara and Tomi, but at what cost? Based on the lives of actual people, The Walls of Cartagena is a short book, but rich in history, scholarship, adventure, and fully-realized characters.