Whew! We got back last night from our trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Though we were there for a relatively short time, I learned so much and took so many photos that I hardly know where to begin! I’ll start with the oldest & biggest, Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
San Juan holds the beginnings of New American history. (I say that with consideration and empathy to Native Americans). All four of the oldest buildings of Europe’s “New World,” can be found in the neighborhood of Old San Juan.That’s because in 1493, after the second, less rhymed about time Columbus sailed the ocean blue, he found himself in Puerto Rico. The native Taino people made the mistake of showing him gold that could be found throughout the fresh waters, and it was all downhill for them after that. The gold mines were declared depleted by 1570.Prior to that, though, the Spanish needed to keep Puerto Rico safe. It was the first land mass with fresh water coming from Europe, and the gateway to The New World, so in 1539, when European enemies became a threat, the construction of Castillo San Felipe del Morro began. African slaves helped build the fort, and the size continued to grow and evolve for over two hundred years.Whats left behind of the fort, which has been deemed an National Historic Site by the U.S. National Park Service and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are tall fortress walls, canons, it’s most recent structure, a one hundred year old lighthouse, triangular and spiral staircases for the soldiers to quickly move between levels, tours, exhibits about the history, the remains of a kitchen (where soldiers were once fed better than island residents; increasing enrollment), and spectacular views.
In front of the entrance to the historical site, you’ll find a huge park area with strong headwinds and locals alongside tourists flying kites.If, like me, you’re wondering with all of this American history why Puerto Rico isn’t united as a state with the other 50, it’s quite simple: they just don’t want to. Those who want to be in a state move to one: 4.6 million people of Puerto Rican origin live in the states, while 3.7 live on the island. The majority of those left on the island vote time and time again to keep the state as-is.As tourists, we like it as is, as well. Puerto Rico was a perfect introduction of world travel to our seven-year-old son, as it blends American comforts with different language, culture, and ecosystems.
Tomorrow, I’ll share about the brightly colored streets of Old San Juan. If you’d like to read more about Puerto Rico and our other adventures, click the “Follow” button on the right hand side of the screen.