India Catalina

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Statue of India Catalina in Cartagena de Indias.
Statue of India Catalina in Cartagena de Indias.
Born c. 1495
Died c. 1529
Ethnicity Indigenous Colombian
Occupation Translator/Interpreter
Known for Translator for Pedro de Heredia during the Spanish conquest of the Chibchan Nations. Traitor
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Alonso Montañez

India Catalina (c. 1495 – c. 1529), was an indigenous woman (almost certainly Calamari) from the Colombian Atlantic coast, who accompanied Pedro de Heredia and played a role in the Spanish conquest of Colombia, acting as interpreter and intermediary. In Colombia today, India Catalina remains as an icon of the treachery of the Precolumbian inhabitants, much like La Malinche and Felipillo.


Catalina was abducted in 1509 by Spanish conqueror Diego de Nicuesa from an indigenous settlement known as Zamba o Galerazamba, where she was the daughter of the local chief. She was sent to Santo Domingo, where she learned the Spanish language and adopted the Catholic religion. As a requirement of Pedro de Heredia, she served as an interpreter to the Native Americans and after that she married Alonso Montañez, Pedro de Heredia's nephew.

The events of the Spanish conquest in the area of modern Cartagena ended with the complete annihilation of the Calamari people; which happened, greatly, thanks to her treacherous ways.

The name of Catalina Indian, appeared in a letter sent for Pedro de Heredia to King Carlos V in 1533. No one could tell what her real name was because he began calling her 'Catalina' from 1509 when the Diego de Nicuesa expedition kidnapped and took her to Santo Domingo where was educated as a Spaniard. From that time she would use Spanish dress only but was still considered a slave.

When they returned to Cartagena twenty years after, she was not the same. She was the one who made the first contact with Corinche Indians after her arrival with Heredia, on the 14 January of 1533. She was the translator for Heredia in the pacification of the many Indian towns as turbacos that he eliminated in combat to Juan de La Cosa many years ago.


The monument is located in the historic center of Cartagena. St Felipe castle in the background

The monument to India Catalina was sculpted by Eladio Gil Zambrana and presented to the public in 1974. Small scale replicas are used in the Cartagena Film Festival awards.

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