Thursday, November 3, 2011

Five Historical Facts About San Juan, Puerto Rico

Isla Verde Beach in San Juan

The capital of Puerto Rico has been compared in parts to Paris and Spain, and is a richly historic destination. Here are some bits of history trivia that may make you want to visit Puerto Rico soon (San Juan, by the way, has no affiliation with San Juan islands which are off the coast of Seattle, Washington). 

Second Oldest European Founded Settlement: San Juan, after Santo Domingo, is the second oldest European-established settlement under U.S. jurisdiction, and you can see this in the “Old City” quarters. The western shore of Puerto Rico was spotted by Christopher Columbus as early as 1493, but the Spanish influence took hold when Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in 1508. The city itself was considered established in 1521. San Juan celebrated the Columbus Quincentennial in 1992. 

European Reminiscence: The city’s architecture has been compared to over European countries, most notably Seville, Cartegena, Buenos Aires and Paris. Some of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture can be found in San Juan.

Growth During Spanish Dominance: The city itself had huge spurts of growth while under Spanish Dominance that lasted for nearly 400 years. The Spanish built huge, thick fortresses around San Juan to ward off attacks.

Baroque Architecture: One of the city’s can’t miss attractions includes the San Juan Cathedral, which is located on Cristo Street. It is also called Catedral de San Juan Bautista, and is a homage to Baroque architecture and an influence of the Catholic church. Visitors can still attend daily services. 

Historical Structures: Experts estimate that there are nearly 400 structures of historic value in San Juan (oddly the number corresponds to the number of years of Spanish rule). Some of the popular structures include the El Morro Fortress, the San Juan Cathedral, and the Dominican Convent. Visitors can reminisce on the city’s rich history as they walk on cobblestone streets, and wander into courtyards that have the same style as those found in Spain.

Three term Mayor of San Juan, Jorge Santini is leading an ambitious construction, and restoration proyect for all San Juan, Currently, buildings, cobblestone streets and landscapes are being preserved and renovated in all areas of Old San Juan.