History of San Juan
The original settlement, which will later move and change its name, was founded in 1508 by Juan Ponce de Leon, and named Caparra. Its current name was adopted in 1521, in honor of John the Baptist (San Juan Bautista, in Spanish). This Spanish settlement was used as a stopover for the ships traveling to Americas. Gold and silver from the New World were stored and shipped from San Juan, which is why the city had to be protected by a vast network of fortifications. The city was occupied by the British in 1595 and 1598 and in 1625 it was sacked by the Dutch. The British attacked again in 1797 but this time the city was even more resilient, due to improved fortifications.
Throughout the 18th century, San Juan and the rest of Puerto Rico expanded, developed and grew richer thanks to the liberalized commerce with Spain. The island also welcomed many immigrants and its population grew significantly.
In May 1898, several American ships bombarded the city, causing much destruction. The attacks ended with an armistice in August of the same year and the Spain finally ceded the army to the USA after the Treaty of Paris.
The soldiers of Puerto Rico fought in both world wars as part of the U.S. Army. The Army also had training camps near San Juan. It is believed that the first shots fired by the United States in World War I were fired by a Puerto Rican, Lieutenant Marxuach.
In 1947, San Juan elected the first ever female mayor of a capital city in The Americas, Felisa Rincon de Gautier.
San Juan was the site of the San Juan Uprising in 1950, one of many acts of revolt of Puerto Rican people against the government and the United States.
Geography and Climate
Geographically, San Juan is located on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico, on San Juan Bay. It is located north of Trujillo Alto and Caguas, west of Carolina and east of Guaynabo. It occupies an area of 76.93 square miles, of which 37.83% is water. The city has two natural lagoons, the Condado and San Jose.
The city has a tropical climate, with hot and rainy summers and warm and mild winters. The driest period is January through March. The city, like the rest of Puerto Rico, is prone to hurricanes.
San Juan occupies a rocky islet at the mouth of San Juan Bay. In the past, the entire city was surrounded by protective walls. During the 20th century, the population of the city spread beyond those walls and onto the main island. The islet, connected to the mainland by a causeway and two bridges, consists of the Old San Juan, which is the historic old town, Puerto Rico’s government institutions and a neighborhood called Puerta de Tierra. In addition to this, the city as 17 more districts, each divided into neighborhoods.
With a population of 395,326, San Juan is the largest city in Puerto Rico. In 2010, the racial makeup was 98.2% Hispanics or Latinos of any race, 1.2% non-Hispanic Whites, 0.8% American Indian, 0.4% Asian, 0.3% non-Hispanic Blacks, 4% two or more races and 8.2% some other race.
Puerto Ricans are, of course, the largest group among the Hispanics, followed by Dominicans and Cubans. Chinese are the majority among the Asian population, followed by Indians and small communities of Filipinos, Japanese and Vietnamese.
Economy of San Juan
The most significant economic growth of San Juan took place after World War II, when it went through industrial revolution. Today, manufacturing is the main industry in the city. Manufactured goods include chemical products such as bleaches and cleaning products, rum and other alcoholic beverages, medicines, fertilizers, electric appliances and tools, plastics, textiles and food.
Tourism is a major source of revenue for the city. Puerto Rico’s main airport is located just outside San Juan and the Condado Beach district is one of the main tourist zones on the island, with many luxurious hotels and resorts. In addition to the beach-related tourism, historical locations (Old San Juan, El Morro, El Cuartel de Ballaja) also attract many visitors.
Culture, Arts and Attractions
The city is the birthplace of many famous artists and musicians who have influenced the Puerto Rican culture and gained international fame. Sylvia del Villard was an influential dancer and choreographer and Jose Enrique Pedreira was an internationally acclaimed Danza composer. Other notable residents of San Juan include musicians Ricky Martin, Raymond Ayala and Justino Diaz, writers Tomas Blanco and Giannina Braschi and actors Benicio del Toro and Raul Julia.
San Juan has many excellent museums, most notably the Puerto Rico Arts Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico, Pablo Casals Museum, the Book Museum, the National Gallery, Americas Museum and the Bacardi Distillery.
Education in San Juan
Institutions of higher education in San Jose include the University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus, University of Puerto Rico’s Medical Sciences Campus, University of the Sacred Heart, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, Metropolitan University, Carlos Albizu University, Center for Advanced Studies on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, ICPR Junior College, International Junior College, Ramirez College of Business and Technology, the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and the School of Fine Arts.
As for the transportation, the Port of San Juan is the fourth-busiest seaport in the Western Hemisphere and the largest home-based cruise port.
Metropolitan San Juan area is served by two airports - the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport is the primary and the Fernando Ribas Dominicci Airport is the secondary airport for the city.
The city has five limited-access expressways and highways and a number of avenues and boulevards but it still suffers from heavily congested traffic. Mass transit is operated by Metropolitan Bus Authority with 30 fixed routes. San Juan also has a ferry service, provided by Catano Ferry.