Locked away in the heart of Cartagena’s Historic Centre is the San Diego District Women’s Prison, now home to the city’s newest restaurant, which opened its doors to great success in December. El Interno (or The Inmate) is part of a project created by actress Johana Bahamón, who has dedicated many years to working with prisoners in Colombia.
Let the guard unlock the gates to a world of flavors, with dishes prepared and served by 25 inmates considered minimum risk. The menu offers up delicious local flavors, from cheese and meat carimañolas, and prawn stew to traditional posta cartagenera (panela-infused beef) with coconut rice and other delicacies. The dishes are served with fruits and vegetables grown in the prison’s garden.
It might be hard to imagine 180 women living under lock and key in one of Cartagena’s most exclusive neighborhoods, but thanks to this program these women gain a sense of worth and hope for the future, leading the violence rates behind the doors of the prison to drop. The money made in the restaurant as part of this program – which also exists in a men’s prison in Milan, where InGalera opened a year and a half ago – helps towards improving prison conditions.
The welcoming pink and green restaurant has a relaxed and friendly environment, with well-presented and helpful inmates, who have been extensively trained in food preparation, crop cultivation and food etiquette. Day by day, the inmates cook and serve their way to freedom, with each day in the restaurant resulting in one day less on their sentence.
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