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Old San Juan: Ciudad Amurallada (The Walled City)

The city of San Juan was a military stronghold and a point of departure of Spanish expeditions to unknown parts of the New World. It was also a stop over of ships going to Spain transporting treasures to the Spanish crown. To defend its strategic position, the Spaniards built a series of forts and walled the city.

The walls were design by Spanish military engineers beginning in the 17th century. The city walls are not made of solid stone; two rows of stone blocks and sandstone were laid with mortar leaving a hollow center. The interior was filled with construction rubble ( broken brick, chunks of limestone and sandstone) and dirt.


The wall with a garita (sentry box or look out tower). Some sections of these walls can be 20 feet thick and up to 40 feet tall.


A garita on a section of a wall.


A view from the north east of the "Puerta de San Juan". The white building on the top right is the governor's mansion known as La Fortaleza or Palacio de Santa Catalina.


Another view of the gate but from the south.


The wall and a flowering red Flamboyán.


Another view of a garita. The bush seen on the bottom of the photograph is known as "uva playera" (beach grape).


An old tree on the lowest part of San Juan on a promenade known as Paseo de la Princesa (Princess Boulevard).

Comments (4)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Maria, these are great photos! And I really enjoyed reading about the history behind the building of these walls. It's amazing that some of the sections were 20 feet thick. They were really determined to build something impenetrable. Very interesting!

Thanks for the great read and for sharing these wonderful photos.

Fascinating and such nice photos! It's funny but last night I was watching the "Top Chef" finale which was set in PR and I saw several scenes of those walls and the garita...now I know what they are!

The garita(s) are lovely. They look like little temples or shrines to me.


Kathy: Thanks! The walls are amazing and quite imposing. They did serve their purpose of defending the island.

Annie: I'm not following "Top Chef" but maybe I'll just have to watch it now. :-) Good observation about the garitas. They do look like mini temples. I'm going to ask a friend of mine from Galicia if the Spanish garitas have the same shape. I'm guessing that the design might have been influenced by the Moors.


Maria, the tag 'uvas playeras" has the wrong picture.

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