History of San Juan, PR

By  Published Sep 15th, 2016



San Juan was actually first called Puerto Rico (the eventual name for the entire island) when a settlement founded by Juan Ponce de Leon was moved there in 1509. The historical Santurce district of the city was initially a settlement for freed slaves from Africa, and today hosts a number of important cultural markers including the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico. The United States first came to the island from the city in 1898 when a fleet of ships including the USS Detroit and USS New York entered San-Juan Bay at the command of William T. Sampson.

Most Puerto Ricans trained in the U.S. Armed Forces during both World Wars were trained at Camp Las Casas in the city, which eventually became public housing after 1945. Soon after the war in 1947, the city elected the first woman mayor in any capital city anywhere in the Americas. It continued to develop in the decades after World War II. The city absorbed Rio Piedras in 1951, and is today home to the iconic Rio Piedras Marketplace, two campuses of the University of Puerto Rico, and the San-Juan Botanical Garden.

One landmark in the city is La Fortaleza,the official residence for the Governor. Construction was finished in 1540 with the purpose of defending the harbor. It is the oldest executive mansion in uninterrupted use anywhere in the New World. Old San-Juan, the oldest settlement on the island, predates La Fortaleza by more than 30 years. It is home to the famous Casa Blanca, the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, and the historic Plaza de Armas, all of which are historically significant and aesthetically pleasing tourist attractions in the city.

The city is famous for, among many other things, its architecture, prominent throughout the city. Structures still standing show a historical influence from Spanish settlers and also from modern Puerto Rican artists influenced by Spanish trends, African features, and uniquely Puerto Rican designs. San Juan continues to be a bastion of artistic talent, and is home to such popular figures as Joaquin Phoenix, Roselyn Sanchez, Ricky Martin, and Daddy Yankee.