Our second port-of-call was San Juan, Puerto Rico. Much has been reported about the difficulty this island is having as it recovers from the impact of Hurricane Irma in September of this year. We didn’t venture outside of Old San Juan but the itineraries of the shore excursions were not much different than they were from our previous visits. While not seeing the damage outside of the city it is reported that much of the island is struggling to recover. Electric and water service is still not available to a large part of the island.
We walked the streets of Old San Juan browsing through shops before I went of on my own to tour Castillo San Felipe del Morro, ‘El Morro’. Before describing the fort let me say that it appeared that Old San Juan has recovered more than reports from other parts of the island. Electricity has been restored to most of Old San Juan but you could still hear the occasional generator humming. From the streets there appeared to be very little damage but you could not see if the roof tops sustained any damage. However, some of the shops did have a slight musty smell which would indicate some roof damage and water infiltration.
The cruise port terminal did not appear to sustain any damage and the surrounding area is open for cruise traffic. We were one of three cruise ships in port that day that deposited about 10,000 visitors to San Juan. A definite boost to their economy.
Spain’s Empire in the America’s extended from the Atlantic coast of Florida, across the Gulf Coast, down to Mexico and Central America, then along the Northern Coast of South America. This area was called the Spanish Main and from the 1500’s through the 1700’s brought great wealth that supported Spain as a world power.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro, ‘El Morro’, along with Castillo San Cristobal, is part a major fortification to protect San Juan bay’s deep harbor from attack by sea. This was the first good harbor for ships en route to the New World after crossing the Atlantic. Construction began in 1539 and continued for almost 250 years. El Morro originated from a point at the mouth of the bay that served as the cannon level to what is now a six level fortress that protected Spain’s access to New Worlds wealth most of 400 years. In 1660 a smaller fort was constructed across from El Morro, called El Canuelo, located about a half mile across the entrance to San Juan bay that provided formidable cross fire.
We can only hope that the hurricane recovery continues and restores this beautiful island. The Puerto Rican people we encountered were friendly and hospitable and are proud of their heritage and country. Hopefully this island can get back to a level of economic stability that will endure for many generations to come.