Where to dance Salsa in Cartagena, Colombia

Salsa in Cartagena means places like Donde Fidel and Cafe´ Havana, and famous artist Joe Arroyo…

In this post I´ll talk of all of them, experienced in the very hot and humid days I spent in the beautiful colonial city of Cartagena de Indias.


Donde Fidel

This is how the Lonely Planet describes this place:

Donde Fidel – The best sound system in Cartagena bar none, and definitely the best Salsa collection in Colombia. […] On Saturday afternoons, watch rare vintage Salsa videos on the big screen. If Salsa legent Hector Lavoe were alive today, he´d own a bar like this.

How could I miss such a place???

I head into the old town and as soon as I reached Plaza De los Coches, the music was indicating very well the way to go 🙂

Donde Fidel

In this corner of this square I found people drinking, singing and watching on the screens videos of live concerts from Joe Arroyo, El gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Oscar de Leon… I felt emotional, the passion for Salsa has its temple in Cartagena!!

And it was just Saturday afternoon, unbelievable.

I spent there the rest of the day, enjoying some beers and the good vibe, connecting with people around… and looking at the hundreds of pictures on the walls (click the picture on the left): this Senor Fidel Lotteau was represented with all the greatest Salsa artists visiting his bar!

Fidel and me

Suddenly I turn my head away from the wall and I see an old man standing in front of me… I had to double-check with the picture: he was Fidel!

I didn´t loose the chance to introduce myself as “Daniel, un hermano Salsero desde Italia” and take a picture with him.

This man who never smiles was in his bar drinking heavy old whisky and talking with his customers.

Fidel, el dictator de la Salsa

Reading some newspaper articles on the walls I realized that Fidel, “el dictator de la Salsa” is an icon not only for the music he plays. He had fought hard to keep his place for the people of Cartagena and to keep the prices as popular as his music, in a town where tourism boosted and the “aristocratic bars” adjusted the prices for the visitors forgetting about the locals (3000COP for a beer is a good deal in old town).


Respect for this man!

In the hours I spent at Donde Fidel, I would every now and then approach Fidel for a question or two.

It went something like this:

D. “Fidel, what can we do, to keep Salsa alive?”

Fidel with Lebron Brothers & others

F. “Nothing, just listen to it. Salsa has good values in it and will continue to exists for hundreds years”

D. “What are the greatest artists in your opinion, now?”

F. “You have many! Gilberto Santa Rosa, Willie Colon, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda…”

D. “Oh, there´s a picture of The Lebron Brothers!”

F. “Yes, they are here and here” (pointing where the pictures were…)

Q. “And the trombone player Jimmy Bosch?

F. “Sure, look there!”

Fidel on screen

In the meantime, the videos where showing a celebration of Salsa and of Fidel. Many videos started showing the group visiting the bar, shaking hands with Fidel, or received at the airport by Fidel.


Fidel doesn´t talk much, and never smiles. I wish I could have spent more time with him trying to get some stories out of this man who is now growing a big belly drinking old whisky now.
But it´s clear that this is a person that is giving a tremendous contribution to the local community and indirectly to the all Salsa scene.

If you ever go to Cartagena, don´t miss this temple of Salsa!



Cafe´ Havana

Cafe´ Havana

I left Donde Fidel only because I had to collect my passport from the captain of the boat that took me to from Panama to Colombia.

In the evening with some people from the boat we went to this other Salsa place, Cafe´ Havana, exactly 40 meters away from the hostel I was in.

But what happens? The place is full of old people! Where are the hot Colombians? Where are the dancers?

That was the strange part of this place. Even later when young people arrived and the place got crowded, everyone was dancing very basic and relaxed… nothing like Cuban, Puertorican, LA, NY etc.  we`re used to see.

degame tocar papi!

Funny that here they have the best music and the most basic dance!

Soon after we entered, live music started from the great group Charanga Africa… and in the break I went to socialize with their conguero 🙂

Here a video of the Cartagenian band Charanga Africa in action:






Joe Arroyo

Like Panama city has Ruben Blades as icon in the Salsa world, Cartagena has Joe Arroyo.

The song of Cartagena is without doubt his best hit Rebelion (No Le Pegue A La Negra) that talks about the black slavery era in Cartagena.

Here is the original video of the song, and another one with the lyrics translated and beautiful pictures of Cartagena! Watch both 🙂

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nhtn3HROvgA] [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5xnAYHuGlo]


Below the lyrics translated for you:

Rebelion (no se pegue a la negra)Quiero contarle mi hermano un pedacito de la historia negra,
de la historia nuestra, caballero


Y dice asi:

En los anos mil seiscientos, cuando el tirano mando
las calles de Cartagena, aquella historia vivio.
Cuando alli llegaban esos negreros, africanos en cadenas
besaban mi tierra, esclavitud perpetua
Esclavitud perpetua
Esclavitud perpetua

Un matrimonio africano, esclavos de un espanol,
el les daba muy mal trato
y a su negra le pego

Y fue alli, se rebelo el negro guapo,
tomo venganza por su amor y aun se escucha
en la verja, no le pegue a mi negra
No le pegue a la negra
No le pegue a la negra

Oye man!!
No le pegue a la negra
no le pegue a la negra
no, no, no ,no, no, no,
no, no, no, no, no, no
(varias veces)

Oye esa negra se me respeta
Ehh, que aun se escucha, se escucha en la verja,
no, no, no, no, no
no, no, no, no, no
no, no, no, no, no le pegue a la negra

Espanol con el alma negra

Oye, porque el negro te se rebela

Chapeton con el alma prieta

no, no, no, no, no le pegue

Habra puno y bofeta por prieta

Y con ustedes… chelito de casa

Abusador que le pegue a jeva
Que el alma, que el alma, que el alma
que el alma, que el alma se me revienta

Hay lamiento en la playa nena

En la playa de Cartagena

De Marbella bella

del alma negra que canta y que llora

porque entonces el negro se venda

El Chombo lo sabe
y tu tambien
no le pegue a la negra

Rebellion (don´t hit the black girl)I would like to tell you my friend  a little bit about
the black history,
our history, ladies and gentlemen

and it goes like this…
goes like!

In the sixteenth century,  when the tyran (the Spanish King) ruled
the streets of Cartagena, this story took place.
When here arrived those black people, Africans in chains
They kissed the earth, but were sent to perpetual slavery
Perpetual slavery
Perpetual slavery

An African marriage, slaves of a Spanish man
he treated them very badly
and beat the black girl

And it was here, that the hansom black boy rebelled,
and took revenge for his love
and in the iron gates still echoes, don`t hit my woman
Don`t hit this girl
Don`t hit this girl

Listen, don`t hit this girl!
Don`t hit this girl
Don`t hit this girl
no, no, no ,no, no, no,
no, no, no, no, no, no

Listen, this girl has to be respected
Ehh, you can still hear it in the iron gates,
no, no, no ,no, no, no,
no, no, no, no, no, no
no, no, no ,no, no, no, don`t hit this girl.

Spanish with your dark soul

Listen, because the black boy will rebel

Conqueror with your dark soul

no, no, no, no, no don`t hit her

There will be hits and blows for that evil

Abuser who beats the girl
my soul, my soul, my soul,
my soul, my soul is about to burst for the pain

there are cries in the beach babe

in the shore of Cartagena

and beautiful Marbella

from the black souls that sing and crie

because then the black guy will take vengeance

The black guy knows it
and you too
don´t hit the black girl

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Di Daniele

Hi, I’m Daniele! A human being from planet earth. I founded WP-OK.it and I like dancing Salsa, running, and living a location independent lifestyle.