Theme Week Puerto Rico – San Juan

Saturday, 28 October 2023 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  9 minutes

Calle de la Virtud © G. Edward Johnson/cc-by-4.0

Calle de la Virtud © G. Edward Johnson/cc-by-4.0

San Juan (Spanish for “Saint John“) is the capital city and most populous municipality in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2020 census, it is the 57th-largest city under the jurisdiction of the United States, with a population of 342,259. San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico (“City of Puerto Rico”, Spanish for rich port city).

Puerto Rico’s capital is the second oldest European-established capital city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, founded in 1496, and is the oldest European-established city under United States sovereignty. Several historical buildings are located in the historic district of Old San Juan; among the most notable are the city’s former defensive walls, Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal, and La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Americas. These historic sites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Today, San Juan is Puerto Rico’s most important seaport and is the island’s financial, cultural, and tourism center. The population of the metropolitan statistical area, including San Juan and the municipalities of Bayamón, Guaynabo, Cataño, Canóvanas, Caguas, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Carolina and Trujillo Alto, is about 2.443 million inhabitants; thus, about 76% of the population of Puerto Rico now lives and works in this area. San Juan is also a principal city of the San Juan-Caguas-Fajardo Combined Statistical Area. The city has been the host of events within the sports community, including the 1979 Pan American Games; 1966 Central American and Caribbean Games; events of the 2006, 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics; the Caribbean Series and the Special Olympics and MLB San Juan Series in 2010.

Calle de Tetuan © G. Edward Johnson/cc-by-4.0 Castillo de San Cristóbal © flickr.com - Prayitno/cc-by-2.0 City wall © MJCdetroit/cc-by-sa-3.0 Condado Beach © flickr.com - Tomas Fano/cc-by-sa-2.0 Calle de la Virtud © G. Edward Johnson/cc-by-4.0 La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the New World © Xemenendura/cc-by-sa-3.0 Regional Spanish Colonial architecture of Old San Juan © MusikAnimal/cc-by-sa-4.0
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La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the New World © Xemenendura/cc-by-sa-3.0
The architecture of San Juan is very diverse, due to its size and all the cultural influences received during its existence. The oldest part of the city, known as Old San Juan, mostly features the influence of Spanish architecture. This part of the city is comprised by a network of “setted” roads usually surrounded by colonial, two-storied houses built on masonry. Some colonial structures have been restored and serve either as government offices or museums. Some examples are the Ballajá Barracks, which now serve as museum and headquarters of several cultural organizations; La Fortaleza, which has served as the residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico since the 16th Century; and the Ancient Welfare Asylum, which now houses the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, among others. Old San Juan also features several public squares, like the Plaza de Armas, located in front of San Juan City Hall; and cathedrals, like the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Old San Juan is also notable for being partly enclosed by massive walls and fortifications built by the Spanish government. The colonial Walls of the city of San Juan had five gates. The main was the Puerta de San Juan, today preserved, built in 1635. It also had the Puerta de San José, the Puerta de Santa Rosa, the Puerta de San Justo and the Puerta de Santiago, the latter built between 1635 and 1641 by Spanish Captain General Íñigo de la Mota Sarmiento. The architecture is more varied in other districts of the city, and the different Spanish, American and Puerto Rican construction styles that reflect the historic architecture trends are most evident in the districts of Puerta de Tierra, Santurce, Hato Rey and downtown Río Piedras, with Gothic, Baroque, Art Deco, and Mid-Century Modern being the most popular styles. Many of the buildings that best exemplify these architectural trends in San Juan are also inscribed in the United States National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), such as the Nuestra Señora de Lourdes Chapel (Gothic Revival, 1907), the Antiguo Casino de Puerto Rico (Beaux-Arts, 1917), the Normandie Hotel (Art Deco, 1942), and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court Building (Modern, 1955). The University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus is also home to a rich variety of buildings that showcase the history of Puerto Rican architecture throughout the past 120 years, with buildings designed by notable architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright‘s student Henry Klumb, Edward H. Bennett, William E. Parsons, and Rafael Carmoega who designed the distinctive clock tower and the university quadrangle, both of which were inscribed in the NRHP in 1984.

Technological advances after World War II in the development of the airliner, coupled with the island’s climate and natural setting, have transformed San Juan into the springboard for tourism around the island, and has made the rest of the Caribbean known throughout the world during the last fifty years. Today the capital features hotels, museums, historical buildings, restaurants, parks, beaches and shopping centers. Old San Juan is often emphasized in tourism campaigns, promoting the historic nature of its colonial buildings and narrow streets covered by cobblestones, a blue stone cast from furnace slag; they were brought over as ballast on Spanish ships. This includes the city’s ancient defensive wall and forts, most notably El Morro and the Castillo San Cristóbal. On January 23, 1984, both of these edifices together with La Fortaleza and El Cañuelo (in nearby Toa Baja) were included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, catalogued as being part of humanity’s cultural patrimony as part of the National Park Service-administered San Juan National Historic Site. The restaurants and art galleries in the zone are visited by tourists and locals alike. Outside of Old San Juan, the Puerto Rico Convention Center District (PRCC) includes the Puerto Rico Convention Center, which hosts a number of local and international events throughout the year such as the Puerto Rico Comic Con, the biggest of its kind in the Caribbean. The PRCC District also hosts a number of hotels, nightclubs, shops, cinemas, bars and restaurants, the Coca-Cola Music Hall, and the Toro Verde Eco Adventure Park. Other notable tourist attractions in San Juan include the Condado and Ocean Park Beaches, El Escambrón and the Fortín de San Gerónimo, La Placita de Santurce, the Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center, the Luis Muñoz Marín and Luis Muñoz Rivera Parks, Plaza Las Américas, The Outlets at Montehiedra, Señorial Plaza, and The Mall of San Juan, the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Juan Wildlife Museum, and the University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden, among others. The University of Puerto Rico’s main campus in Río Piedras is also of interest with its historic quadrangle and clock tower, its number of theaters and venues which host events such as the Casals Festivals, and a museum. San Juan is also used by tourists as a base to explore other attractions within and outside the San Juan metropolitan area, such as the Bacardi Cathedral of Rum and boardwalk in Cataño, the “Pork Highway” of Guavate in Cayey, the bioluminiscent bay in Fajardo, the beaches and street food of Piñones in Loíza, and El Yunque National Forest recreational areas in the municipalities of Luquillo and Río Grande.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on DiscoverPuertoRico.com – San Juan, VisitTheUSA.com – San Juan, Wikivoyage San Juan and Wikipedia San Juan. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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