San Juan National Historic Site, 501 Norzagaray Street, San Juan, PR 00901
GPS: 18.468755491368, -66.120740215195
San Juan National Historic Site represents the most important Spanish military outpost based in the Caribbean. From the 16th century, the port city of San Juan was fortified for over 250 years by the first conquistadors who came from Spain to protect it from other European powers. Christopher Columbus was the first explorer to discover the island of Puerto Rico in 1493, during his second expedition to America, (he named the archipelago San Juan Bautista). In 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was administratively attached to the United States and joined the American Commonwealth in 1952 (the island is 1,600 km from the continental coast of the United States). The bay and the cobbled streets of the old town of San Juan preserve many buildings from the Spanish colonial empire: citadel, historical monuments, colourful houses, defensive works, ramparts, forts and bastions are part of its rich heritage overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
Before the arrival of the explorers of the New World at the end of the 15th century, the archipelago was inhabited by the Indian people of the Taínos (close to the Amerindian people of the Arawaks) and their leader Agüeybaná, cacique (chief) of Boriken (Puerto Rico). Juan Ponce de León quickly made it a Spanish possession. In 1510, he was appointed first governor of the island of Puerto Rico by the Crown of Castile and exploited the Taínos to fortify the archipelago, to search for gold or to work on the plantations as slaves. The foundation of the city of San Juan, also called Ciudad amurallada (walled city), dates back to 1521. At that time, it concentrated its houses and forts on a very small part of the main island. Solidly anchored in the bay, its massive fortresses such as La Fortaleza and El Morro bear witness to five centuries of occupation and a sometimes turbulent history (the town was repeatedly attacked by British, French and Dutch forces). The other peculiarity of these military buildings, of European construction, is that they are located in the middle of a tropical zone.
Particularly lively at night, the charming and historic city of San Juan is the timeless destination of the Greater Antilles and the Caribbean. It is the emblem of a dynamic island with Taino, Spanish, African and American influences reflected in its cuisine, music, dance and art. Its predominantly Hispanic inhabitants vibrate to the rhythm of a Creole culture and a tropical climate.