In San Juan stands colossally Puerto Rico’s most well known landmark, El Morro. In the 16th century this citadel foundation was laid to protect the capital and the Spanish fleet from seaborne attacks. With Puerto Rico positioned at the Western edge of the Caribbean, San Juan was one of the key frontier outposts of Spain’s lands and a guardian of the West Indies.
For first time visitors, this is a must see attraction.
Its full name is the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, and was named in honor of King Philip II of Spain. For more than 400 years it has stood protecting the city – used beginning with Spanish conquistadores and ending with World War II. The fortress has seen its fair share of battles, but it has never fallen to a sea attack. However, in 1598, it fell once to the Earl of Cumberland when it was attacked by land.
Now, though, you’ll see people gathered to relax, sightsee and picnic.
El Morro is made of six levels, staggered to incorporate passageways, storerooms, barracks and dungeons. Once you reach the top of it, you can gaze at spectacular ocean views. You can walk the same route solider once marched on around El Morro and fly kites.
In the 1500s, the Spanish set up a trading route to the New World. Using two fleets, the flota and the galeones, the Spanish would transport riches back home from the colonies and send out new supplies to equip settlers with the goods they needed.
Southeast of Puerto Rico, both fleets entered the Caribbean Sea, but followed different routes at different times of the year. The flota were ships smaller than the galeones, and focused on the transportation of goods such as hides, coffee, ginger, sugar, and other tropical good from Cuba, Veracruz, Mexico, and what is now the Dominican Republic. The larger galeones transported back to Spain from the New World pearls, silver, gold, and other valuable minerals.
Both fleets needed protection from strikes by armed ships. Together, they would caravan from Havana, Cuba, sailing up the eastern shore of Florida. Then, they would turn east across the Atlantic to return home to Spain. Their cargoes of raw materials and treasures from the New World would be left at Spanish ports, and then the crew would load their ships up with merchandise and supplies to carry back to the Spanish American colonies.
El Morro still stands today and is a symbol of pride and history for the country.
It is open every day from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. expect on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Adult tickets are $3. Children 15 and under get in free.