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”.