After Juan Ponce de Leon, the island’s first governor’s death in 1521, the capital was moved from Caparra to what is known as San Juan Bautista. With the conquest of the Aztec and Inca Empires, San Juan became a major departure point for Spanish ships hauling gold and silver back to Europe. It wasn’t long before the village became a target of foreign powers, pirates and privateers, and a network of fortifications had to be built.
Fort Castillo de San Cristóbal sits at the entrance to the Old City. Built between 1634 and 1771, San Cristóbal was one of the largest defenses ever built in the Americas. Projecting 150 feet above water, its intricate modular design was intended to intimidate invaders. This strategic masterpiece is now a UNESCO World Heritage and National Historic Site.
To get a feel of what life was like 465 years ago, just take a walk through old San Juan. This seven block area boasts over 400 carefully restored 16th & 17th century Spanish colonial buildings.
Puerto Rican cooking is a multi-cultural event. Spanish, Cuban, Mexican, African, Taino, and American flavors all mingle to create a one-of-a-kind cuisine. Most dishes incorporate Adobo, a savory blend of herbs and spices that give many of the native foods their distinctive taste and color. Sofrito, a potpourri of onions, garlic, coriander, and peppers browned in olive oil and colored with achiote gives the bright- yellow color to the island’s rice, soups, and stews.