Last updated: July 15, 2020
The main elements of this World Heritage Site consist of San Juan National Historic Site, including the three forts of San Felipe del Morro, San Cristóbal, and San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo); and a large portion of the City Wall, built between the 16th and 19th centuries to protect the city and the Bay of San Juan, as well as La Fortaleza, which has served as a fortress, an arsenal, a prison, and residence of the Governor-General, and today as the seat and residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.. They represent a fine display of European military architecture adapted to a tropical harbor site.
These fortifications are characteristic examples of the historic methods of construction used in military architecture over this period, which adapted European designs and techniques to the special conditions of the Caribbean port cities.
During the 16th century, recognizing the need to protect the Spanish treasure fleets on their voyages to and from the New World, the Spanish erected vast fortifications throughout their territories in the Caribbean Islands and the Gulf of Mexico. These fortifications guarded the entrance to the Bay of San Juan, helped the Spanish maintain sovereignty over Puerto Rico, and protected Spanish commerce in the Caribbean basin.
For the explorers and colonists of the New World who came from the east, Puerto Rico was an obligatory stopping-place in the Caribbean. For centuries, the island was a stake disputed by the Spanish, French, English and Dutch. The fortifications of the Bay of San Juan, the magnificent port to which Puerto Rico owes its name, bear witness to its long military history. By the 19th century, the old city had become a charming residential and commercial district. The city itself, with its institutional buildings, museums, houses, churches, plazas and commercial buildings, is part of the San Juan Historic Zone which is administered by municipal, State and Federal agencies.
At the San Juan National Historic Site visitor center, visitors have the opportunity to participate in ranger-led orientation talks about the fortifications. Programs are available in English and Spanish. Afterwards, park visitors can explore the fortifications, enjoy the beautiful natural setting and enjoy the historic city of San Juan.
San Juan National Historic Site, a World Heritage Site and a unit of the National Park System, is located at 501 Norzagaray St., San Juan, PR. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. La Forteleza is also a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the La Fortaleza National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos.
Park Page: https://www.nps.gov/saju/index.htm