San Juan, Puerto Rico

From Academic Kids

San Juan is the capital city of Puerto Rico. The city is located in the northeastern part of the island of Puerto Rico.

San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521 and is regarded as the oldest city in the United States of America (the oldest city in the continental United States is St. Augustine, Florida). Today, San Juan serves as Puerto Rico's most important seaport, as well as the main manufacturing, financial, cultural, and tourist center of the island. The population of the metropolitan area, including San Juan, Bayamon, Carolina, Guaynabo, Catano, and Trujillo Alto is nearly a million inhabitants, hence about 1 in 4 Puerto Ricans now lives in this area.

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Seal of the City of San Juan

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Map of Puerto Rico indicating the location of San Juan

Other names The Walled City
Founded 1521
Population 442,447
Density 3,582.5 km2
Area 112 km2
Lat/Long Coordinates Template:Coor dm
Mayor Jorge Santini (PNP)
Districts Condado, Hato Rey, Old San Juan, Rio Piedras, Santurce
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San Juan from space, July 1997


Back portion of La Fortaleza, San Juan's wall and sea-side gates to the city.
Back portion of La Fortaleza, San Juan's wall and sea-side gates to the city.

In 1508 Juan Ponce de León founded the original settlement, Caparra, today known as Pueblo Viejo, behind the almost land-locked harbor just to the west of the present San Juan metropolitan area. A year later, the settlement was abandoned and moved to a site which was called at the time Puerto Rico, meaning "rich port" or "good port". In 1521, the name of the settlement name was switched with the name "San Juan", the name which Christopher Columbus had originally given the island in honor of John the Baptist.

Old San Juan

In Spanish colonial times, most of the urban population resided in what is known now as Old San Juan. The old city is the main cultural tourist attraction for the island, and the bay side is lined by slips for large cruise ships. Old San Juan is located on the western half of a small island connected to the mainland by bridges and a causeway. The core old city is characterized by its narrow cobblestone streets and colonial buildings, and encompasses less than a mile by a mile and a half. The buildings in Old San Juan date back to the 16th and 17th century. Parts of the old city remain partly enclosed by massive walls and contains several defensive structures and notable forts, such as Fort San Felipe del Morro (begun 1539) and Fort San Cristóbal (17th century), both part of San Juan National Historic Site, and El Palacio de Santa Catalina, also known as La Fortaleza (begun in 1533), which serves as the governor's mansion. Other buildings of interest predating the nineteenth century are the the Ayuntamiento or Alcaldia (City Hall), the San Jose Church (1523) and the adjacent former Dominican monastery; and the former house of the Ponce de Leon family known as Casa Blanca. Other buildings of interest from Spanish colonial times, among many, are the Teatro Tapia, the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), the former Spanish barracks (now museum de Ballaja), La Princesa (former municipal jail, now a history museum), the municipal cemetary just outside the city walls. Also on the island where Old San Juan is situated is the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (begun in the 1520s), which contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer and settlement founder Juan Ponce de León. Strict building codes enforce restoration.

Subjected to attacks

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Ayuntamiento de San Juan (City Hall), Plaza de Armas in the foreground.

San Juan was used as a stopover for ships returning from Spain, making it an important port in the Spanish system. However, this also made it the target of the foreign powers of the time. The Spanish built a network of fortifications to protect the transportation of gold and silver from the New World to Europe.

The city saw attacks from the English in 1595 by Sir Francis Drake and 1598 led by George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland. The artillery from the fortification of El Morro repelled Drake, however Clifford managed to land troops and lay siege to the city. A few months into the British occupation, Clifford was forced to abandon his expedition when his troops began to suffer from exhaustion and sickness. Later, the city was sacked by the Dutch in 1625, but Fort San Felipe del Morro withstood the assault and was never taken. The English returned in 1797, during the French Revolutionary Wars, led by Sir Ralph Abercromby, who had just conquered Trinidad. His army laid siege to the city but was forced to withdraw in defeat as the Puerto Rican defenses proved more resilient than those of Trinidad. Various events and circumstances, including liberalized commerce with Spain, opening of the island to immigrants, and the colonial revolutions, led to an expansion of the island and city in the late 18th and early 19th century.

In 1898, United States troops bombed, shelled and subsequently occupied the city during the Spanish-American War. Spanish rule ended after 1898 and the island became a territory of the United States of America.

San Juan today

Plaza del 5to Centenario and San Juan's Totem
Plaza del 5to Centenario and San Juan's Totem

During the 20th century, the main population centers of surged well beyond the walls of the old city, on to the mainland of the island. The city has a diversity of neighborhoods. East of Old San Juan lies the hotel and condominium filled district of Condado. Beaches popular with swimmers and surfers are present all along the Atlantic coastline. Nearby, are two separate business districts, Santurce, where The "Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico" (Art Museum of Puerto Rico) is located. Miramar is mainly a residential area rising south of the Condado Lagoon. Hato Rey, which at the beginning of the 20th century was grazing ground for cattle, is now considered the financial center of the island. A section of this district is often referred to as the "Golden Mile", due in part to the many banks and businesses United States, is also located in Hato Rey. In the southern part of the city is the residential area of Río Piedras, where the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico is located.

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Tren Urbano, Río Piedras underground station.

San Juan made an unsuccessful bid for hosting the 2004 Summer Olympics. As with many large metropolitan areas, automobile traffic congestion has been a growing concern in the city which prompted city planners to build a train system dubbed "Tren Urbano" (The Urban Train) which is now in operation.

External links

  • Google maps (,-66.436813&spn=1.304626,2.026978&t=k&hl=en)


Official Sites

Tourist and Other Information

Education Colleges / Schools / Universities


de:San Juan (Puerto Rico) es:San Juan (Puerto Rico) io:San Juan ja:サンフアン no:San Juan pl:San Juan


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