OPINION

Photo Essay: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

July 18, 2007
The Great Ganesha

One section of the capital of Puerto Rico - San Juan - has cobbled streets, brightly colored buildings and beautiful sculptures. This part, called Old San Juan, shows the strong influence the Spanish had on Puerto Rico, and also has several historical monuments and forts. The old city is very small and very dense and we took a self-guided walking tour.

We started with a view of the marina, and an old sail-ship moored there.

Sail Boat

Next, we walked by La Aduana, the old, pink Customs House, which is still used by the US and Puerto Rican port authorities.

Customs House

Across the street from the Customs House, is a corner of the wall that once enclosed the old city. And there's a watchtower there, which are the icons of San Juan, as you can see at the bottom of the pic.

Watchtower One

From there, we walked along the wall, and passed by some old statues which precede La Princesa - formerly, a jail (and now an art museum).

Prison 1

The statue on the left is part of a set of three that's displayed prominently. Although I've looked around a little bit, I've not been able to find out exactly who created them, or how old they are, or what they stand for.

Prison 2

Being on a limited schedule, we didn't stop in at the museum, but its huge white wall had ornate brackets for their lamps, and there were some other travelers taking a break, perhaps.

Ornate Grille 2

We walked on to Raices (meaning 'roots'), an imposing bronze sculpture and fountain. The fountain represents the Taino, European and African ancestors of the modern-day Puerto Rican. Here's a detail.

Raices

The large city wall then turns a corner and pushing us to the edge of the water, left a narrow path to walk down on...

Wall 1

...but also gave a nice view of one of the city's edges.

Wall 2

Going inside the wall and entering the city from the San Juan gate, we were hit in the face with a gulmohar tree sandwiched between two colorful buildings, offering some welcome shade.

Gulmohar

Looking back, we saw the inside of the San Juan gate which looks out on to the bay (or bahia). Here's a detail.

San Juan Gate

Taking a side-road led us up to a view of some of Old San Juan's famed colored houses, some of which have been around since the Spanish colonial era. This view looks down Calle Sol (or Sun Street).

Colorful Buildings

To the left, we saw Plazuela de la Rogativa, on which there is a statue commemorating a march made by a bishop and some townswomen to scare off the British (it worked).

Rogativa

Beyond the statue is a nice panorama of new San Juan, sandwiched between two watchtowers.

Watchtowers

To the right, is a beautiful old house with a mural of Mary and Jesus.

Orange Mary

From there, we walked up a small pathway, past the Instituto de Culturo Puertorriqueña...

Institute of Puerto Rican Culture

...and on to Fuerto San Felipe del Morro also known as the El Morro fortress, which is surrounded by a vast field.

El Morro

We got there at closing time, so we didn't really get a chance to go in, but across the street from El Morro are two great sculptures. Again, I can't seem to find any info on the who/why/when, but they're definitely worth a look.

El Morro Sculpture 1

El Morro Sculpture 2

Walking away from Casa Blanca (the ancestral home of Ponce De Leon's descendants) we passed by some colorful walls.

Parking for the Belgian Consulate

Colorful Wall

You turn right on to Calle Cristo and see the blue-ish cobbled path in all its glory - a trademark of Old San Juan.

Cobbled Path

At the end of the road is the Capilla del Cristo (Chapel of Christ), in front of which we saw a family having dinner in the middle of the road.

Dinner

Also on the Calle Cristo is the Catedral de San Juan Bautista or the San Juan Cathedral.

San Juan Cathedral

On the way back to the car, we passed some locals rapt in animated conversation at the street corner.

Animated

Alas, all good things must come to an end and we too, eventually had to say goodbye to the island in the sun.

Island in the Sun

 

The Great Ganesha is a doctorate in Quantitative Finance who loves to write. Originally from Bombay, he now lives in San Francisco. Read more about him, if you like.
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#1
Tanay
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July 18, 2007
02:24 AM

Superb pics and great post...

#2
Aaman
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July 18, 2007
02:28 AM

Nice trip report.

#3
Coqui
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July 18, 2007
09:39 AM

Nice photo tour of Old San Juan

#4
The Great Ganesha
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July 18, 2007
03:15 PM

thanks, guys.

#5
eco pagan
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July 20, 2007
12:35 PM

That City you call old san Juan is actually Port Rico[PuertoRico]on the then Island of SanJuanBatista.
Ame'rican from SJBatista watched as 2 revolutions fliped sanjuanbatista into Puerto Rico.
The old town near la perla de norte,site of el Morro Fort is isla verde home of the green giant khira monument @India.
in 1868 Bruckman americanize the call of revelution on the Island of sanjuanBatista to Give me liberty or death,akin to philadelphia freedom, was assassinated in the town of Yauco near the river prieto.
then in 1898 the Puerto rican nationalism were able to flip the island name to Puerto rico and the port to SanJuan.Most of the photos are pre-fliped-times long ago 1800' further then that,and 1900 on top of that.
ecoavila.
newjersey blue berries.2007

#6
Temple Stark
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July 22, 2007
03:45 AM

Good tourist snaps. (Advice warning, sorry:) Work on bending your knees, get closer to your subject with self or lens - and get more people in more shots.

Nice to see photos, though, I've never been there. Reminds of coastal Mexico, for obvious reasons. I enjoyed the cobble-stoned streets of Ajijic a few years back.

- Temple

#7
The Great Ganesha
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July 22, 2007
12:13 PM

temple: thanks much for the critique. appreciate it. never been to mexico, but it's definitely on my list.

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