Historic Center of Santa Cruz de Mompox

World Monuments Watch
Santa Cruz de Mompox, Bolívar Department, Colombia

2012 World Monuments Watch

Santa Cruz de Mompox was founded in 1540 by Juan de Santa Cruz, Governor of Cartagena, as a port and point of trade on the Magdalena River. The development of the town over time illustrates the processes of colonial penetration and dominion during the Spanish conquest and the growth of communications and commerce from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. Unlike the majority of colonial Spanish settlements, which were organized around a town square, Santa Cruz was laid out along the river instead. The city contains three such nodes, Plaza Central or Plaza de la Concepción, Plaza de San Francisco to the north, and Plaza de Santa Bárbara to the south. The symbiosis between city and river has persisted from the earliest settlements in this location, demonstrating an exceptional association between natural landscape and townscape. In 1995, the Historic Center of Santa Cruz de Mompox was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

But the gradual change of course of the Magdalena River in the mid-nineteenth century left the town's river frontage stranded, depriving it of a useful port. The result was economic stagnation that lasted until the final decade of the twentieth century. Due in part to its isolation and lack of investment, the architecture of the historic center has remained largely intact. The attractive architectural heritage of Mompox is now seen as a potential catalyst for improved quality of life and sustainable growth within the city. Through the cooperation of all levels of government as well as international entities, an integrated regional plan had been created by the time the city was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch. The plan incorporated economic and community development, environmental management, tourism,  and the preservation of cultural resources and traditions. Inclusion on the Watch raised awareness about the need for its timely implementation to ensure that this jewel of history remains a vibrant community.

Since the Watch

As part of the government’s regional plan, the restorations of Plaza de la Concepción and San Juan Street were completed in August 2012. In 2013 a second phase of conservation work was initiated in the Plaza de San Francisco and Plaza de Santa Bárbara, and along the riverfront. 

Last updated: December 2016.

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