Sincelejo is the capital and the largest city in the Colombian department of Sucre. It is also the main city in the denominated Region Sabanas (Savannas Region), a subdivision of the Caribbean Region of Colombia, and the 25th biggest city by population in Colombia. The city is located 30 kilometers away from the Caribbean Sea by the Gulf of Morrosquillo; 125 kilometers away from Cartagena and 200 kilometers from Barranquilla.
The land comprising the municipality of Sincelejo was inhabited in the prehispanic age by several groups of indigenous people belonging to the Chibcha linguistic family known as Zenu .
Sincelejo was founded on October 4, 1535, with the name of San Francisco de Asis de Sincelejo , the saint day of Francis of Assis. It was located on the site of a small Zenu indigenous settlement. The village used to be a part of Alonso Padilla's encomienda between 1610 and 1640. In those times the native indigenous people from that region were overpowered and exploited by the Spanish colonizers or encomenderos.
On November 21, 1775 Sincelejo was refounded by the Spanish captain and engineer, Antonio de la Torre y Miranda following the orders from Cartagena's governor Juan de Torrezar Diaz Pimienta. The building of the town started with a church and the lands around it was given to people who used to live spread all over the region in order to consolidate a religious and political center in the zone. Sincelejo was supposed to follow the classical Spanish colonial grid with the main church and its square in the center, but it was not possible because of the several creeks that break through the town.
It is still unknown where the name -Sincelejo- come from, some historians claim the name to be indigenous, coming from an indigenous word Sincel or Cincel, but another theory states that the name is Spanish and that Sincelejo was named after Francisco de Sincelejo, but there are not historical records that confirm the existence of a man with that name.
In 1812, Sincelejo became shelter for the revolutionary priests in La Rebelion de los Curas (Priests' Insurrection) held back the same year. In 1887 Sincelejo became one of the head towns in the Province of Cartagena. In 1908 it became the capital of the department of Sincelejo, which had a short-lived period, becoming part of the Province of Cartagena again in 1910. In 1912, Sincelejo almost disappears because of a huge conflagration, which took down the most of the central zone, nevertheless the town was rebuilt, having a particular architecture belonging to that age, mostly in the center zone of the town. In 1966 with the creation of the Sucre Department, Sincelejo became the capital of this department.
On January 20, 1980 one of the deadliest collapse disasters occurred, it was the Corralejas stadium collapse, a collapse of an arena, which killed at least 200 people.
Sincelejo has a total area of 278.4 km, but only 18.9 km are urban. There are two different orographic zones: to the west there is an area of level ground, while to the east there is an undulated area, which belongs to the Serrania de San Jacinto (also called Montes de Maria), where is located the urban part of the municipality.
This feature makes Sincelejo a town with several hills and creeks like Arroyo de Arena, Arroyo Grande, sometimes called Arroyo Grande de Corozal, and the Arroyo del Tigre.
Sincelejo is in the tropics, so its temperatures does not change too much along the year, keeping an average temperature about 27-28 C, the difference is made by the precipitation, which does change. It has a tropical wet and dry climate (Aw) according to the Koppen climate classification. The Drought season usually starts in the first or second half of December and it extends until the second half of February or the first half of March, then the Rainy Season starts sporadically at the beginning and gradually increasing until getting a peak in April or May, in June and July the amount of precipitation decrease a little (In a period of time called "Veranillo de San Juan") and eventually it increases again until it reaches the most rainy point in September, October or even in November.
Sincelejo is subdivided into an urban zone and a rural zone. The urban zone is divided into 9 Comunas (Townships), while the rural has 21 divisions named Corregimientos.
Sincelejo has an estimated population of 219,639 according to DANE 2005 Census. The 83.7 % of the housing are houses, while 12.1 % are apartments. The 98.1% of the housing have regular electricity; 83.7%, sewage system; 79.7%, regular water supply; 79%, natural gas and 50% telephones.
In Sincelejo, the 51.7% of the residents are women, while the 48.3% are men. The literacy rate is 87.5%. The 14.5% of the citizens of Sincelejo recognize themselves as Indigenous people; 9.4% as African-Colombians and the rest, the 76.1% recognize themselves as mestizos(mixed-race) .
In 2009 Sincelejo has an estimated population of 234,886 according with DANE projections.
According with DANE census there are sincelejanos in Australia, Bolivia, Peru,Mexico, Canada, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Spain, USA, Venezuela and others. The 69.5% of the city population is originally of Sincelejo, the 30.3% are Colombians from other cities of the country and the 0.2% are from other countries.
Sincelejo, just like the rest of the department of sucre bases its economy in the cattle raising, and agriculture, but in Sincelejo there is a development in the trade and service lines because it is an important regional center. According to DANE Census 2005, in the urban zone, the 50.4% of the places of business belongs to the trade line, while the 35.8% belongs to the service line and the 12.7% belongs to the industrial line. The 83.1% of the rural units (farms) has some kind of rural production activity with the 99.1% having cattle raising activity, the 33.4% an agricultural activity and only 1.3% fishing activity. The 96.2% of places of business has 10 or less workers; 3.3% ten to fifty and only 0.5% fifty-one to two hundred workers. From the cultivations, 78% are temporary cultivations (Cassava, Dioscorea (Name), Common Bean, Corn); 11% mixed temporary cultivatios (two or more temporary cultivations seeded together) and a 8% permanent cultivations .
The trade line is supported by several shopping center like Almacenes Exito, SAO, Almacenes Ley and El Palacio del Remate. There are several malls being the main and biggest the San Francisco Mall (Centro Comercial San Francisco). In Sincelejo is possible to find a big variety of products of any nature, from clothes and shoes to medical stuff. The economy in Sincelejo gets dynamism by the night life, specially weekends. There are several bars and pubs in Sincelejo, most of them located near to the central zone of the town and the avenues, like Las Penitas Avenue.
The public line of the economy in Sincelejo holds an important amount of the working people distributed among the administrative branch, the health branch and the education branch. Some people claims this situation leads to electoral crimes since these people that is working for the municipal government tends to buy votes in order to elect a candidate favorable to their interests in order to keep their jobs once the mayor finishes their period.
Traditional music of Sincelejo are porro and fandango (similar to samba to Brazilians). The typical dish of this city is mote de queso which is a soup with cheese. City is known for its 'hamacas' and sombrero vueltiao, which are both made by the native inhabitants. The sombrero vueltiao is also known as a national symbol for Colombia. The city is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sincelejo.
Every January Sincelejo opens the holiday for the '''Jesus's Sweet Name'(Fiestas del dulce nombre de Jesus) which takes place on January 20, but the festival begins days early and it includes several parades, a beauty contest and several days of bullfighting within a temporary wooden circular structure similar to a stadium named Corraleja, that is why the holiday is also called Las Fiestas de Corraleja''. On January 20, 1980, a combination of overcrowding and panic caused the bullring's wooden bleachers to collapse, killing 222 persons, although some estimates place the death toll at almost 400, this tragedy put on hiatus the traditional Corraleja despite the holiday took place every year, only in 1999 the municipality authorized the construction of the wooden structure renewing the bullfighting.
In Sincelejo also takes place the National Meeting of Bands (Encuentro Nacional de Bandas) which is a musical contest where folk bands perform the traditional musical styles in the Savanna Region: Porro and Fandango. This contest started in 1984 and it takes place in the mid-year and it awards creativity and performance.
Another cultural yearly event in Sincelejo is Festival Sabanero del Accordeon ('''Savanna's Accordion Festival'''). Unlike the National Meeting of Bands, this festival is about the folk musical styles but by the accordion and it includes four styles: Paseo, Merengue, Cumbia and Porro. The first winner of this contest was Lisandro Meza in 1974. The festival was created to show the Savanna's culture to the country and to the world, that is why there are always some controversy when the styles of Valledupar, specially the paseo, get to win.
Sincelejo has got several institutions devoted to the cultural work like "La Escuela de Bellas Artes" , Batuta among others.
Sites of interest
Majagual Plaza: Usually called "La Placita de Majagual" (The Little Plaza of Majagual), this place was often referred in several folk songs from artist like Joe Arroyo. This plaza was the epicenter of the January 20 Corralejas for many years before this show was moved to "La Plaza de Mochila" where it took place the disaster of 1980. Since then Majagual Plaza was only useful for activities related with sports, but in 2007 it was relaunched under a new concept and post-modern design with a arch-shaped sculpture and a wide square for cultural events
Santander Park and Saint Francis of Assis Cathedral: As old as Sincelejo, the Santander Park was opened in 1776 and it was the first place where the January 20 Corralejas took place in 1845 until 1964 where it was moved to Majagual Plaza. Just next to the park it is located the Saint Francis of Assis Cathedral (Catedral San Francisco de Asis), which was established in 1853 and it is the center of the religious parties that take place along the year in Sincelejo like Easter, Virgin Mary, Sacred Heart and the most important that takes place on January 20: The party of the sweet name of Jesus (Las Fiestas del Dulce Nombre de Jesus).
'''Sincelejo's Municipality Theater: It was established in 1997 and it is a beautiful facility where concerts, musicals, folk events and theater operas take place. It is the cultural facility for excellence in Sincelejo.San Francisco Mall''': The San Francisco Mall (Centro Comercial San Francisco) was opened in August 2006, and it has a pleasure ground for children, four movie theaters, and shops. It is located on Las Penitas Avenue (Avenida Las Penitas) and it has 61 shops where it is possible to find clothes, shoes, food and entertainment. The mall's area is about 31,000 square meters including parking space for 351 cars and 156 motorcycles. The total investment for this facility was nine billion pesos (About 5.5 Million US Dollars). This mall holds the biggest shopping center in Sincelejo: Almacenes Exito.
Sincelejo is best known for its yearly folkloric and religious party: The 20th of January Party also known as Jesus' Sweet Name Party which takes place around January the 20th. This party includes a structure known as Corraleja, which is a temporary crafty wooden bullring, where the main attraction is watching the bullfighters facing the bulls, there is no economic retribution officially stated for the bullfighters that dare to face the animal, but usually the wealthiest landowners state an unofficial incentive (in money) for those who get to stab the bull using small prickers. The picadors are also a part of the show, but they belong to cattle raising farms and they're paid for their work, but the unofficial incentive also applies for them.
The construction of the temporary bullring starts at the end of December, and civil engineers and architects supervise the work of dozens of workers. The bullfighting takes places in four or five journeys (a journey a day), usually including the weekend. Different cattle rising farms (previously chosen) are in charge of supplying the bulls -about 40 bulls per day- so at the end of the last day the most entertaining journey is chosen -with an active people's participation- and the cattle rising farm is awarded with an official incentive. The ticket for watching a bullfighting journey costs about 15-35 US Dollars and usually the last journey is the more expensive.
The main criticism of the corraleja is the bad treating to the animals, not only in the bullfighting but its previous preparation; the security of the usually not skilled bullfighters, the consumption of alcohol within the bullring for watchers and bullfighters. Actually everybody who dares to join the bullfighters must have insurance, that are sold right there before getting inside the bullring, so if they are hurt or wounded, the medical costs are covered.
Two local dailies circulate in Sincelejo: El Meridiano de Sucre and El Universal Sincelejo. Furthermore regional and national newspapers also circulate like El Tiempo, El Espectador and El Heraldo.
There are several radio broadcasting stations: On A.M. there are Radio Caracoli, Radio Piragua, Radio Chacury, Radio Sabanas, Radio Sincelejo, Ecos de la Sierra Flor and local stations of RCN Radio and Caracol Radio. On F.M. there are Olimpica Stereo, Tropicana Stereo, Primavera Stereo, Besame, 94.3 F.M., Marina Stereo and Unisucre FM Stereo.
Via radio waves, Sincelejo receives five national television channels: RCN, Caracol, Canal Uno, Senal Colombia and Senal Institucional. Moreover there are two cable tv services: Telmex and Cable Union. Telmex holds the only local tv channel named Canal Doce (Channel 12) exclusive for its subscribers and it includes several programs like magazines and a newscast devoted to Sincelejo and its zone of influence.
Inside the town
There are several ways to move inside Sincelejo:
1. Mini-Buses: The minibuses service in Sincelejo -often criticized because of the age of the vehicles- carries passengers from the different neighborhoods to the downtown, and then to another neighborhood or to the same. The minibuses follow a previously established route, that they have to cover in a limited time. Several companies are in charge of this service, regulated by the municipality who gives the routes in concession. The minibuses' fare is 800 Colombian pesos (0.5 US Dollars approximately). This service schedule is from 5:45 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., later it is very hard to find minibuses.
2. Taxis: This is the best urban transportation in Sincelejo, because it is available 24/7 and there are several companies in charge of this service. Taxi's standard fare is 3500 Colombian pesos (2 US Dollars approximately), and the night fare varies from 4000 to even 5000 Colombian pesos (2.3 to 3 US Dollars) according to the hour, being more expensive from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m.
3. "Mototaxis": A "Mototaxi" (Motorcycle-taxi) is a regular motorcycle used to carry a passenger from one point of the town to another (like a regular taxi) but in a lower fare than a taxi. Despite this kind of transportation being controversial, it is used by the majority of the population because it is the fastest way to move inside the city and its fare is reasonable: 800 Colombian pesos (0.5 US Dollars) for shorts trips, 1000 Colombian pesos (0.75 US Dollars) for middle trips and 1500 Colombian pesos (0.9 US Dollars) for long trips inside the town. At night this fare increases to 2000 Colombian pesos (1.25 US Dollars). Though this service is very informal and barely legal, it is the most popular. This increase in the number of motorcycles in town led the mayor Jesus Paternina in 2008 to create a space named Anillo Verde -Green Circle- (which includes the most of the central zone) where motorbikes are only allowed if the driver is alone, no passengers.
Outside the town
Sincelejo is known for being an important crossroad on the Colombian Caribbean, it is placed close to several important towns on the region and also it is placed relatively close to important cities in Colombia like Barranquilla, Cartagena, Valledupar and Medellin. There are regular transportation from Sincelejo to these place by bus and taxi, being taxis a little more expansive.
15 kilometers away from Sincelejo is Las Brujas Airport where is possible to find daily flights to the major cities in Colombia: Bogota and Medellin. By land transportation the fare is approximately 1 US Dollar/10 Kilometers. By air transportation the fare is about 2.5 US Dollars/Kilometer. Despite there is not an official a terminal for land transportation, the place where Ocala Avenue and Troncal del Caribe intersect, it is the most important departing and arriving place in Sincelejo
As the main city in Sucre and the Savannas Region, Sincelejo holds a big number of students, with 35 public schools and several private schools. Also, there are several universities: Universidad de Sucre, which is the only official public university in Sincelejo and Sucre. There are several private universities: CECAR, CUN, Universidad San Martin, Universidad Santo Tomas and there is a local office of Universidad de Pamplona. There are several institutions offering technical and technological short careers, being the most important the local office of SENA.
Sincelejo Town Hall Website
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