Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
San Juan, 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.
|Other names||The Walled City|
|Mayor||Jorge Santini (PNP)|
|Districts||Condado, Hato Rey, Old San Juan, Rio Piedras , Santurce|
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 slots for large cruise ships. The Old San Juan distric is located on 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. The oldest parts of the 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 are the Teatro Tapia, the Ayuntamiento (City Hall), the former Spanish barracks (now museum de Ballaja), the San Jose Church (1523), the former house of the Ponce de Leon family known as Casa Blanca . 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.
Subjected to attacks
San Juan was used as a stop over 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. 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
During the 20th century San Juan's population extended beyond the walls of the old city. The city now encompasses the surrounding districts. East of Old San Juan lies the hotel and condominium filled district of Condado. Nearby, are two separate business districts, Santurce , where The "Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico " (Art Museum of Puerto Rico) is located and Hato Rey. Hato Rey, which at the begining 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 which are located in the area. The headquarters of Banco Popular, the largest Hispanic bank in the 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.
San Juan made an unsuccesful 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.
Tourist and Other Information
Education Colleges / Schools / Universities
- University of Puerto Rico: Rio Piedras Campus
- University of Puerto Rico - Medical Sciences Campus
- Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico
- University of the Sacred Heart
- Inter-American University of Puerto Rico - Metropolitan Campus
- Metropolitan University
- Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico
- Carlos Albizu University
- Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico
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