map-of-fort-of-san-juan

Fort San Felipe Del Morro:

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Look­out Tow­er

Fort San Felipe del Mor­ro or El Castil­lo San Felipe del Mor­ro in Span­ish is a six­teenth-cen­tu­ry citadel which lies on the north­west­ern-most point of the islet of San Juan, Puer­to Rico. Named in hon­or of King Philip II of Spain, the fort, also referred to as “El Mor­ro” or “promon­to­ry”, was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan bay, and defend the city of San Juan from seaborne ene­mies.    In 1983, the fort was declared a World Her­itage Site by the Unit­ed Nations and is part of San Juan Nation­al His­toric Site.   Over two mil­lion vis­i­tors a year explore the windswept ram­parts and pas­sage­ways mak­ing the fort one of Puer­to Rico’s main vis­i­tor attrac­tions.  Fac­ing “El Mor­ro”, on the oppo­site side of the bay, a small­er fort known as “El Cañue­lo” com­ple­ment­ed the fort’s defense of the entrance to the bay.  The con­struc­tion of the Fort San Felipe del Mor­ro begun 1539 when King Charles V of Spain autho­rized its con­struc­tion, includ­ing the sur­round­ing walls. The pur­pose was to defend the port of San Juan. Con­struc­tion start­ed the same year with a tiny pro­to-fortress that was “com­plet­ed” in 1589. This small sec­tion com­pris­es per­haps 10% of the struc­ture peo­ple see today.

In 1587, engi­neers Juan de Teja­da and Juan Bautista Antonel­li designed the actu­al appear­ance of the cas­tle as seen today, fol­low­ing well estab­lished Span­ish mil­i­tary for­ti­fi­ca­tion design prin­ci­ples. Sim­i­lar Span­ish for­ti­fi­ca­tions of the 1600s-1700s can be seen in Cuba, St. Augus­tine, Flori­da, San­to Domin­go, Domini­can Repub­lic, Ver­acruz and Aca­pul­co, Mex­i­co, Por­to­bel­lo and Pana­ma City, Panamá,and many oth­er Latin Amer­i­can loca­tions which were gov­erned as part of the Span­ish Empire dur­ing the Age of Explo­ration.   Many com­plex addi­tion­al new struc­tures were added to El Mor­ro over the next 400 years. The out­er walls are six meters thick. In 1680, Gov­er­nor Enrique Enríquez de Sotomay­or begun the con­struc­tion of the walls sur­round­ing the city of San Juan, which took 48 years. By the late 18th cen­tu­ry, El Morro’s walls had grown to be 18 feet (5.5 m) thick. Today El Mor­ro has six lev­els that rise from sea lev­el to 145 feet (44 m) high.  All along the walls are seen the dome-cov­ered sen­try box­es known as gar­i­tas, which have become a cul­tur­al sym­bol of Puer­to Rico itself.  The El Mor­ro or Port San Juan Light was built atop the fort in 1843, but in 1908, it was replaced by the US mil­i­tary with the cur­rent light­house.

Fort San Cristobal:

San Cristobal Fort

San Cristo­bal Fort

The Castil­lo de San Cristo­bal is a Span­ish fort in San Juan, Puer­to Rico. It was built by the Spaniards to pro­tect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan. It is part of San Juan Nation­al His­toric Site.  Castil­lo de San Cristo­bal is the largest for­ti­fi­ca­tion built by the Span­ish in the New World. When it was fin­ished in 1783 it cov­ered about 27 acres of land, basi­cal­ly wrap­ping the city of San Juan. Entry to the city was sealed by San Cristobal’s  dou­ble gates.  After close to one hun­dred years of rel­a­tive peace in the area, part of the for­ti­fi­ca­tion (about a third) was demol­ished in 1897 to help ease the flow of traf­fic in and out of the walled city.

Most of San Juan’s for­ti­fied walls have guerites (sen­try box­es) at var­i­ous points. One of the guerites at Fort San Cristo­bal is called “The Devil’s Guerite” (“La Gari­ta del Dia­blo”). This par­tic­u­lar guerite is one of the old­est parts of the fort being built in 1634.   Leg­end says that sol­diers dis­ap­peared ran­dom­ly from the guerite. How­ev­er, it is most­ly believed — and told so in var­i­ous local sto­ries — that the only sol­dier that appar­ent­ly dis­ap­peared did so to escape with his girl­friend.  How­ev­er, the leg­end still sur­rounds the guerite and most peo­ple ask for it when vis­it­ing the fort.

El Cañuelo:

El Cañuelo

El Cañue­lo

Forti­n San Juan de la Cruz (Fort Saint John of the Cross), bet­ter known as el Cañue­lo, is locat­ed on Isla de Cabras, Puer­to Rico. It is part of San Juan Nation­al His­toric Site.  This fort was orig­i­nal­ly built in wood in 1610. Due to its loca­tion at the entrance of the San Juan bay, and in front of the Fort San Felipe del Mor­ro, across the bay, it pro­vid­ed a strate­gic point to cre­ate a cross­fire for any invad­ing ships enter­ing the bay, fill­ing a gap in the artillery cov­er­age. It is said that, at one time, there was a huge chain cross­ing from El Mor­ro to El Cañue­lo that was stretched dur­ing attacks to pro­vide a phys­i­cal bar­ri­cade across the bay entrance.   The fort also guard­ed the mouth of the Baya­mon Riv­er on the oth­er side.

The fort played an impor­tant role dur­ing a Dutch attack to the island. At that time it was burnt to ash­es.  How­ev­er, the Spaniards rebuilt it in the 1670s.   The square fort is about 80 feet (24 m) per side, with one guerite (gari­ta in Span­ish). Orig­i­nal­ly built on a rocky islet, near­by Isla de Cabras (Goat Island) was arti­fi­cial­ly expand­ed to incor­po­rate it.  Although dif­fi­cult for tourists to find, the site fea­tures fab­u­lous views of Boca Vie­ja Cove to the west and San Juan Bay to the east. The fort inte­ri­or is closed to the pub­lic, but one can walk around its walls. Isla de Cabras is con­nect­ed to the main island by a cause­way.

La Fortaleza:

La Fortaleza

La For­t­aleza

La For­t­aleza, (The Fortress) is the cur­rent offi­cial res­i­dence of the Gov­er­nor of Puer­to Rico. It was built between 1533 and 1540 to defend the har­bor of San Juan. The struc­ture is also known as Pala­cio de San­ta Catali­na (San­ta Catali­na Palace). It is the old­est exec­u­tive man­sion in the New World. It was list­ed by UNESCO in 1983 as a World Her­itage Site.   Dur­ing the 1640 recon­struc­tion, the chapel of San­ta Catali­na, which orig­i­nal­ly exist­ed out­side of the walls, was demol­ished and was inte­grat­ed to the walls of the struc­ture. This would give rise to the name of San­ta Catalina’s Palace. La For­t­aleza was the first defen­sive for­ti­fi­ca­tion built for the city of San Juan, and the first of a series of mil­i­tary struc­tures built to pro­tect the city which includ­ed the Fort San Felipe del Mor­ro and the Fort San Cristo­bal.  The con­struc­tion was autho­rized by Charles V as a defense against attacks from the Euro­pean pow­ers of the day and Carib Indi­ans.

Ini­tial­ly, the struc­ture con­sist­ed of four walls enclos­ing an inte­ri­or patio with a cir­cu­lar tow­er known as the Homage Tow­er.  From the top of the tow­er, the gov­er­nor, fol­low­ing mil­i­tary tra­di­tion, would take oaths of fideli­ty at crit­i­cal moments to the Queen and the King of Spain.  Lat­er, a sec­ond tow­er named the Aus­tral Tow­er was con­struct­ed.  At present, the com­plex con­sists of a few attached build­ings with for­mal liv­ing quar­ters in the sec­ond floor, and pri­vate quar­ters in the third. It over­looks the high city walls that front the bay, and with­in the north perime­ter of the house are shel­tered gar­dens and a swim­ming pool.

Fortin De San Geronimo:

Fortin-de-San-Geronimo

Fortin de San Geron­i­mo

Forti­n de San Geron­i­mo del Boqueron (Fort Saint Jerome of the Large Entrance) is a small fort locat­ed in the entrance to what is known today as Con­da­do Lagoon in San Juan, Puer­to Rico. It was built dur­ing the 17th cen­tu­ry to replace a small­er bat­tery (called El Boqueron) that stood at the east­ern­most end of the San Juan islet. The orig­i­nal Boqueron bat­tery defend­ed San Juan from attacks by Sir Fran­cis Drake in 1595 and George Clif­ford, the third Earl of Cum­ber­land, in 1598 who destroyed it after his attack.  The San Geron­i­mo became part of San Juan’s First Line of Defense, along with the San Anto­nio Fort/Bridge and Escam­bron Fort, being the Fourth and final Line of Defense the majes­tic San Cristo­bal Cas­tle, guardian to the city entrance

Fortin Conde De Mirasol:

Fortin Conde De Mirasol

Fortin Conde De Mira­sol

Fuerte de Vieques, also known as El Fortin Conde de Mira­sol, is a fort built in 1845 locat­ed in the town of Isabel Segun­da in Vieques, an island munic­i­pal­i­ty of Puer­to Rico. In 1991, the fort was restored by the Insti­tute of Puer­to Rican Cul­ture. The struc­ture hous­es the Vieques Muse­um of Art and His­to­ry and the Vieques His­toric Archives, an exten­sive col­lec­tion of doc­u­ments relat­ed to the his­to­ry of Vieques. Perched on a hill­top, over­look­ing the small Vieques town of Isabel Segun­da, is a tiny cas­tle with low stone walls and a small white-plas­tered fort. The walls are lined with can­nons, and wild hors­es graze on the grassy slopes below. The Fuerte de Conde de Mira­sol, local­ly known as El Fortin, was the last fort built by the Span­ish in the New world. Con­struc­tion began in 1845, but nev­er com­plet­ed. The main struc­ture was used by local gov­ern­ments as a jail into the 1940’s. The Fortin was lat­er aban­doned and fell into dis­re­pair. An exten­sive ren­o­va­tion and restora­tion project com­plet­ed in 1991.

The Fortin is now the cen­ter of Vieques cul­ture and his­to­ry. The muse­um has per­ma­nent exhibits of native Taino and Span­ish tools and arti­facts, and hosts many exhi­bi­tions by artists from Puer­to Rico and around the world. Vis­i­tors can take a self-guid­ed tour of the muse­um and grounds. The museum’s staff are extreme­ly knowl­edge­able and infor­ma­tive. The Fortin itself offers sweep­ing panoram­ic views of Isabel Segun­da, the Puer­to Rico Main­land, Cule­bra island, and St. Thomas. The Fortin hosts numer­ous events through­out the year; pre­sen­ta­tions, doc­u­men­tary films, exhibits and much more.