>>>The eternal guardian of the port

The eternal guardian of the port

In the past were wars, sieges and great military deeds… and the old San Juan de Puerto Rico not only resisted them, but remains on guard.
I
n its day it was the most important Spanish military post in the Americas, and the centuries don’t seem to have changed its rough stone buildings: they still retain the grandeur that kept its enemies at bay for years. San Juan Bay had a high strategic value for the Spanish Crown in the colonial age, because it was the post that ships from Europe had to pass in order to reach the Americas. In 1530 the fortress became the first fortification constructed to defend the city of San Juan, but it turned out to be insufficient given the persistence of the French, English and Dutch in taking over the port.

A very present past

The past and the present are interwoven in San Juan and the evidence is all around you. In “el Morro” you’ll recognise the three waving flags: those of Puerto Rico, the United States and Spain, all of them a symbol of its history.

The fortress was followed by Fort San Felipe del Morro, better known as “El Morro”, referring to the protrusion of the land into the sea that characterised it. Although its foundations date from 1539, this six-storey fort was not considered finished until 1787, because its structure was extended on several occasions. However, most of its construction was concentrated into 50 years, when military engineers ordered six-metre wide walls to be built (and 18 to 25 metres wide in some areas), along with bastions, ditches, trenches, sentry boxes, ammunition dumps, cannons and barracks that would house over 400 troops. This was a real bastion for protection against attacks by sea, designed to resist the most ferocious assaults.
And there were several. In 1595, Francis Drake, a hero for the English but a pirate to the Spanish, tried to take the island but his ships did not manage to enter the bay and were attacked by Spanish artillery. A second attempt was carried out by another English man, George Clifford, three years later. In this case it was an epidemic of dysentery that dissuaded his soldiers and ruined his plans of making San Juan an English base. The constant sieges by its enemies led to the construction of a new defence post, this time for protection against attacks on land. Therefore, in 1634 its sister fortress, Fort San Cristóbal was built, the largest fortress constructed by the Spanish in the “New World”.
Despite all of its constructions; the fortress, “el Morro” Fort San Cristóbal and the smaller Fort San Juan, known as “el Cañuelo”, in 1898 the bay was sieged by the United States Navy during the Spanish-American War. Finally, Spain handed over the island to the United States through the signing of the Treaty of Paris. However, the military spirit of the island continued into the 20th century, as it was used as a military base during the First and Second World War.
Fortunately, nowadays no one tries to enter the bay by force, just on tourist cruises. You can visit the fortress and all of its buildings. You can follow the footsteps of the old soldiers, admire the lighthouse that was rebuilt after the war and visit the sentry boxes that still watch over the port, and even find fragments of projectiles in the walls.

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