1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico

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SAN JUAN (San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico), the capital and largest city of Porto Rico, on a small and narrow island which lies near the north coast, about 35 m. from the east end of Porto Rico, and is united to the mainland by the bridge of San Antonio. Pop. (1899) 32,048, including 5236 negroes and 11,529 of mixed races; (1910) 48,716. San Juan is served by the American railroad of Porto Rico and by steamboats from New York and other ports. The harbour lies between the city and the mainland. It is capacious and landlocked, except on the north. A portion of it is 30 ft. in depth, and in 1907 Congress passed an Act for enlarging this area by dredging and especially for widening the entrance for large vessels; the work was virtually completed in 1909. San Juan is noteworthy for its fortifications and public buildings, and is the only fortified city of Porto Rico.

On a bluff about 100 ft. high at the west end of the island and commanding the entrance to the harbour rise the battlements of Morro Castle, which was completed about 1584 and in which there is a lighthouse. The Castle of San Cristobal (begun early in the 17th century, completed in 1771) extends across the island in the rear portion of the city. A wall on each side of the island connects the two castles. The Cañuelo is an abandoned fort on an islet opposite the Morro and less than 1000 yds. from it, the main channel lying between the two; and Forts San Antonio and San Geronimo protect the bridge of San Antonio. Inland rises a range of lofty mountains. Within the walls (which are 30-100 ft. high) the streets are narrow, smoothly paved with glaze brick and well cleaned. Princessa, Covadonga and Puerta de Tierra are lined with shady trees and occasionally widen into refreshing plazas. Between streets the space is packed closely with massive, flat-roofed brick and stone buildings, the walls of which, like the fortifications, are covered with plaster of various colours—green, blue, white, brown, pink, yellow and vermilion; red tile roofs add to the effect. Near Morro Castle is the Casa Blanca, a palace on land which belonged to the family of Ponce de Leon. The tomb of Ponce de Leon is in the Cathedral, and in the Plaza de San José is a bronze statue (said to have been cast from cannon taken from the English in 1797) to his memory. In the Plaza Colon is a marble and granite monument to Columbus. In the church of San Francisco are some good paintings by José Campeche (1752-1809), a local artist. Other churches are the severely beautiful Santo Domingo, the Santa Ana, the Cathedral, with a rich shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Providencia, and the church of San José, which was formerly the Dominican convent. Among the prominent buildings and institutions are the customhouse, the executive mansion (formerly the palace of the governor-general) situated near the Casa Blanca, the archiepiscopal palace a Seminary College, the City Hall, the Intendencia, the Post Office, the large barracks (Cuartel de Ballajá), the Penitentiary, the Military Hospital, the Presbyterian Hospital, two municipal hospitals (one surgical, one medical), a municipal bath-house and a small public library (the “Cervantes”). At Rio Piedras, not far from San Juan, is the Normal School and Agricultural School of Porto Rico. Other suburbs are Marina, with wharves and piers, Puerta de Tierra and on the mainland, Santurce, with a country club, the Union Club, a beautiful market-place, two charity schools and some attractive villas. Industries are of little importance. The sanitation of the city has been installed since the American occupation; sewers have been laid and a water-supply is piped from Rio Piedras.

From Caparra, established in 1508 by Juan Ponce de Leon and now known as Pueblo Viejo, the Spanish settlement removed in 1520 to San Juan or San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico, nearer the coast. The new settlement became the capital of the eastern district of the island, to the whole of which the latter part of the name came to be applied. It was sacked by Sir Francis Drake in 1595, and captured by Admiral George Clifford, earl of Cumberland (1558-1605), in 1597, but was abandoned by the conquerors on account of an epidemic. It was unsuccessfully attacked by the English under Sir Ralph Abercromby in April 1797; and it was bombarded by an American fleet under Rear-Admiral William T. Sampson on the 12th of May 1898 during the Spanish-American war, and was blockaded by the auxiliary cruiser “St Paul,” which on the 22nd of June drove back into the harbour the Spanish destroyer “Terror” and the gunboat “Isabella II.”; but the city was not occupied by the Americans until after the suspension of hostilities.