Intendencia Fluvial – The Original Gateway of Commerce

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You’ve probably passed this blue building on Via 40 at Cra 46 several times and wondered what the heck it was. In fact, the Intendencia Fluvial is a super important structure.. or at least it used to be, back at the beginning of the last century.

You see, back then the Magdalena River was THE route for a huge amount of the trade in and out of Colombia and the government needed a way to maintain control. The Intendencia Fluvial building housed the administration offices for the fluvial (waterway) command center – in other words, the people who ran the port and controlled which boats were allowed to enter or exit and which docks companies could use – with their finger on the national economy, Intendencia Fluvial was extremely powerful.

Intendencia Fluvial
The original Intendencia Fluvial, circa late 19th century.

Construction began on the building over eighty years ago back in 1926, and it opened for business a decade later in 1934. Designed and built in the architecture of the Republican Period,the Fluvial Intendencia building was a result of the commercial boom experienced by Barranquilla across the century that began in the mid 1800s. Situated directly at the end of the great Magdalena, which itself winds itself all the way into Colombia, and directly beside the ocean ports of Puerto Colombia, Salgar, and Sabanilla, Barranquilla was perfectly positioned to profit from the commerce. Back then, the building was part of an expansive structure, located at the end of Paseo Rodrigo Bastidas, a pier that stretched a full kilometer, laden with merchandise warehouses, cranes, and mechanical toolsheds, the structures typical of any busy pier.

It’s a little-known fact that this section of the waterway, bordering Intendencia Fluvial, was the original entrance to Barranquilla, where barges used to bring fruit and contraband directly to the city’s merchants.

Barranquilla was perfectly positioned to profit from the commerce.

As the years passed, the river traffic began to wain, evidenced by the disrepair and eventual disuse of both the Intendencia Fluvial and the wharf itself. The building sat empty for decades with boarded-up windows and bricked-in entrances.

Intendencia Fluvial
The Intendencia Fluvial was an eyesore for decades.

In 2014, as part of the infrastructure upgrades spurned by the Noguela mayorship to enhance the region along the river and construct the “Avenida del Río Centro Histórico”, a massive restoration project began. In addition to a complete overhaul of the old Intendencia Fluvial, plans were drawn up to reface the wharf with “Plaza Grande”, the plaza and restaurant area adjacent to the Intendencia Fluvial, and a park area between the two where people could relax amid gardens and enjoy the views of the river.

Nowadays, the Intendencia Fluvial building is a sight for sore eyes, a completely restored version of its original glory. The site of the offices of Barranquilla’s Secretary of Culture, Heritage and Tourism, the building is used to host conferences and cultural displays, and has become a landmark in the region’s cultural history.

Restored and enhanced, the Intendencia Fluvial is a beautiful tribute to the history of the city.
Restored and enhanced, the Intendencia Fluvial is a beautiful tribute to the history of the city.

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