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San Juan

Municipio Autónomo de San Juan
City and Municipality
Autonomous Municipality of San Juan
San Juan, Puerto Rico (2529298606).jpg
San Juan 2015.jpg
Condado Beach at night, view of Old San Juan from the top of Castillo San Cristóbal
Flag of San Juan
Flag
Coat of arms of San Juan
Coat of arms
Nicknames: 

"La Ciudad Amurallada"
Spanish for "The Walled City"
"Ciudad Capital"
Spanish for "Capital City"
Map of Puerto Rico highlighting San Juan Municipality
Map of Puerto Rico highlighting San Juan Municipality
San Juan is located in North America
San Juan
San Juan
Location in North America
Sovereign state  United States
Commonwealth  Puerto Rico
Established 1521
Named for John the Baptist
Barrios
Area
 • City and Municipality 77.0 sq mi (199 km2)
 • Land 47.9 sq mi (124 km2)
 • Water 29.1 sq mi (75 km2)  37.8%
 • Urban
876.2 sq mi (2,269 km2)
Elevation
26 ft (8 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • City and Municipality 342,259
 • Density 7,147.1/sq mi (2,759.5/km2)
 • Urban
2,148,346
 • Metro
2,350,126
Demonym(s) Sanjuaneros
Time zone UTC−4 (AST)
ZIP Codes
00901, 00907, 00909, 00911-00913, 00915, 00917, 00918, 00920, 00921, 00923-00927
Area code(s) 787 and 939
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San Juan ( "Saint John") is the capital city and most-populous municipality in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2010 census, it is the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of the United States, with a population of 395,326. San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico ("City of Puerto Rico", Spanish for rich port city).

Puerto Rico's capital is the third oldest European-established capital city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, founded in 1496, and Panama City, in Panama, founded in 1521, and is the oldest European-established city under United States sovereignty. Several historical buildings are located in San Juan; among the most notable are the city's former defensive forts, Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristóbal, and La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Americas.

Today, San Juan is Puerto Rico's most important seaport and is the island's financial, cultural, and tourism center. The population of the Metropolitan Statistical Area, including San Juan and the municipalities of Bayamón, Guaynabo, Cataño, Canóvanas, Caguas, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Carolina and Trujillo Alto, is about 2.6 million inhabitants; thus, about 80% of the population of Puerto Rico now lives and works in this area. San Juan is also a principal city of the San Juan-Caguas-Fajardo Combined Statistical Area. The city has been the host of events within the sports community, including the 1979 Pan American Games; 1966 Central American and Caribbean Games; events of the 2006, 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics; the Caribbean Series and the Special Olympics and MLB San Juan Series in 2010.

The damage caused in 2017 by Hurricane Maria was extensive. Significant progress had been made in the capital by April 2019, and particularly by October 2019. This was significant for tourism, which had rebounded by October of that year and was close to the pre-Maria era.

History

Ponce de Leon house
Ruins of Juan Ponce de León's residence at Caparra

In 1508, Juan Ponce de León founded the original settlement which he called Caparra. It was named after the Province of Caceres in Spain, the birthplace of Nicolás de Ovando, then the Governor of Spain's Caribbean territories, Today it is part of the Pueblo Viejo sector of Guaynabo, just to the west of the present San Juan metropolitan area. A year later, the settlement was moved to a site then called Puerto Rico, Spanish for "rich port" or "good port", after its similar geographical features to the town of Puerto Rico of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. In 1521, the newer settlement was given its formal name, Puerto Rico de San Juan Bautista.

The ambiguous use of San Juan Bautista and Puerto Rico for both the city and the island in time led to a reversal in practical use by most inhabitants: by 1746 the name for the city (Puerto Rico) had become that of the entire island, leading to the city being identified as Puerto Rico de Puerto Rico on maps of the era. On the other hand, the name for the island (San Juan Bautista) became the name for the city only after the occupation of the island by the United States.

Staat van Amerika, map of San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1766
San Juan and bay, Puerto Rico, 1766

San Juan, as a settlement of the Spanish Empire, was used by merchant and military ships traveling from Spain as the first stopover in the Americas. Because of its prominence in the Caribbean, a network of fortifications was built to protect the transports of gold and silver from the New World to Europe. Because of the rich cargoes, San Juan became a target of the foreign powers of the time.

The city was witness to attacks from the English led by Sir Francis Drake in 1595 (in what is known as the Battle of Puerto Rico) and by George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, in 1598. Artillery from San Juan's fort, El Morro, repelled Drake; however, Clifford managed to land troops and lay siege to the city. After a few months of English occupation, Clifford was forced to abandon the siege when his troops began to suffer from exhaustion and sickness. In 1625 the city was sacked by Dutch forces led by Captain Balduino Enrico (also known as Boudewijn Hendricksz/Bowdoin Henrick), but El Morro withstood the assault and was not taken. The Dutch were counterattacked by Captain Juan de Amezquita and 50 members of the civilian militia on land and by the cannons of the Spanish troops in El Morro Castle. The land battle left 60 Dutch soldiers dead and Enrico with a sword wound to his neck which he received from the hands of Amezquita. The Dutch ships at sea were boarded by Puerto Ricans who defeated those aboard. After a long battle, the Spanish soldiers and volunteers of the city's militia were able to defend the city from the attack and save the island from an invasion. On October 21, Enrico set La Fortaleza and the city ablaze. Captains Amezquita and Andre Botello decided to put a stop to the destruction and led 200 men in an attack against the enemy's front and rear guard. They drove Enrico and his men from their trenches and into the ocean in their haste to reach their ships.

The British attack in 1797, during the French Revolutionary Wars, led by Sir Ralph Abercromby (who had just conquered Trinidad). His army laid siege to the city but was forced to withdraw in defeat as the Puerto Rican defenses proved more resilient than those of Trinidad. Various events and circumstances, including liberalized commerce with Spain, the opening of the island to immigrants as a direct result of the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815, and the colonial revolutions, led to an expansion of San Juan and other Puerto Rican settlements in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Detroit Photographic Company (0766)
La Plaza, San Juan, ca. 1900

On May 8, 1898, United States Navy ships, among them the USS Detroit, USS Indiana, USS New York, USS Amphitrite, USS Terror and USS Montgomery, commanded by Rear Admiral William T. Sampson arrived at San Juan Bay. The USS Yale captured a Spanish freighter, the Rita in San Juan Bay, thus being the first hostile encounter between the warring sides in Puerto Rico. On May 9, Yale fought a brief battle with an auxiliary cruiser of Spain, name unknown, resulting in a Spanish victory. Around this time, Captain Ángel Rivero Méndez was assigned the command of the Spanish forces in the fortress of San Cristóbal in San Juan. On May 10, the Yale returned to San Juan Bay, Rivero-Méndez ordered his men to open fire upon the USS Yale using an Ordoñez 15 centimeter cannon, thus becoming the first attack against the Americans in Puerto Rico during the Spanish–American War. For his actions, Captain Rivero-Mendez was awarded the "Cruz de la Orden de Merito Militar" (The Cross of the Order of the Military Merit) first class. The residents of San Juan were furious with Rivero and blamed him for the destruction caused to their city by the American bombardments. Nothing came of those accusations and Capt. Rivero-Méndez was ordered to turn over the keys of all the military installations in San Juan to Captain Henry A. Reed of the U.S. Army after the Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed. On July 25, General Nelson A. Miles landed at Guánica (in southwestern Puerto Rico) with 3,300 soldiers in what was known as the Puerto Rican Campaign. The American troops found some resistance and engaged the Spanish and Puerto Rican troops in battle, the most notable of these the battles of Yauco and Asomante. All military actions in Puerto Rico were suspended August 13, 1898, after President William McKinley and French Ambassador Jules Cambon, acting on behalf of the Spanish government, signed an armistice. Spain ceded the island to the United States later the same year by signing the Treaty of Paris.

Camp Las Casas, located in the district of Santurce, served as the main training camp for the Puerto Rican soldiers prior to World War I and World War II; the majority of the men trained in this facility were assigned to the "Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry" which was renamed the 65th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army by the Reorganization Act of June 4, 1920. The 65th Infantry was deactivated in 1956 and became the only unit ever to be transferred from an active Army component to the Puerto Rico National Guard.

MODERN BUILDINGS TOWER OVER THE SHANTIES CROWDED ALONG THE MARTIN PENA CANAL - NARA - 546369
Shanty town along the Martín Peña Canal, 1973

Lieutenant Teófilo Marxuach (Retired as a Lieutenant Colonel), a native of Arroyo, Puerto Rico, fired the first shot in what is considered to be the first shot of World War I fired by the regular armed forces of the United States against any ship flying the colors of the Central Powers Marxuach, who was a member of the "Porto Rico Regiment of Infantry" and Officer of the Day, on March 25, 1915, opened fire on the Odenwald, an armed German supply vessel, when it was trying to force its way out of San Juan's bay. The shots ordered by Lt. Marxuach were the first fired by the United States in World War I.

In 1919, Félix Rigau Carrera, "El Aguila de Sabana Grande" (The Eagle from Sabana Grande), the first Puerto Rican pilot, became the first native Puerto Rican to fly an aircraft in the island when he flew his Curtiss JN-4 from Las Casas. At the time, the area was used by the military as an air base and it was also Puerto Rico's first commercial airport, and Rigau Carrera was allowed to perform his historic flight from the air field. Camp Las Casas was eventually closed down, and in 1950 a public housing project by the name of Residencial Fray Bartolome de Las Casas was constructed on its former location.

On January 2, 1947, the people of San Juan elected Felisa Rincón de Gautier (also known as Doña Fela) (1897–1994) as their mayor. Thus, she became the first woman to be elected as the mayor of a capital city in any of The Americas. During the Cold War era, she ordered the establishment of the island's first Civil Defense system under the directorship of Colonel Gilberto José Marxuach (Teófilo's son). Rincón de Gautier served as mayor until January 2, 1969.

Historic Coat of Arms of San Juan (Puerto Rico)-Spanish Rule
Historic coat of arms of San Juan (Spanish rule)

On October 30, 1950, San Juan was the scene of the San Juan Uprising, one of many uprisings which occurred in various towns and cities in Puerto Rico, by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party against the governments of Puerto Rico and the United States. Among the uprising's main objective was to attack "La Fortaleza" (the Governors mansion) and the United States Federal Court House Building in Old San Juan. In accordance to the planned uprising in San Juan, a group of nationalists were supposed to attack simultaneously the gubernatorial mansion La Fortaleza, where Puerto Rican governor Luis Muñoz Marín resided, and the United States Federal Court House which is located close to an area called "La Marina" in Old San Juan. The La Fortaleza battle, which ensued between the nationalists and the police lasted 15 minutes, and ended when four of the five attackers were killed.

Coat of arms and flag of San Juan

On March 8, 1948 the city government of San Juan officially adopted as the city's first flag an orange field, in the center of which is the Coat of Arms of the City. The orange color was based and taken from Father Diego de Torres Vargas' text and it reads : "Escudo de armas dado a Puerto Rico por los Reyes Católicos en el año de 1511, siendo Procurador un vecino llamado Pedro Moreno. Son : un cordero blanco con su banderilla colorada, sobre un libro, y todo sobre una isla verde, que es la de Puerto Rico, y por los lados una F y una I, que quiere decir Fernando e Isabel, los Reyes Católicos que se las dieron, y hoy se conservan en el estandarte real, que es de damasco anaranjado, con que se ganó la ciudad" ("Coat of Arms given to Puerto Rico by the Catholic Monarchs in the year 1511 being Procurator a vecino named Pedro Moreno. They are: a white lamb with a red flag, on top of a book, and everything above a green island, which is Puerto Rico...which is of orange damask, with which the city was won"). It appears that the color was changed from orange to white at some point.

Geography

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San Juan from space

San Juan is located along the north-eastern coast of Puerto Rico. It lies south of the Atlantic Ocean; north of Caguas and Trujillo Alto; east of and Guaynabo; and west of Carolina. The city occupies an area of 76.93 square miles (199.2 km2), of which, 29.11 square miles (75.4 km2) (37.83%) is water. San Juan's main water bodies are San Juan Bay and two natural lagoons, the Condado and San José.

Climate

San Juan has a tropical monsoon climate and enjoys an average temperature of 81.0 °F (27.2 °C) although 90 °F (32 °C) or higher temperatures are seen on an average 79 days annually, more commonly occurring during the wetter months of the northern summer, especially if the winds come from the south. In the winter, temperatures can drop to around 60 °F (16 °C), though the average winter low is 71 °F (22 °C). The coolest temperature officially recorded was 60 °F (16 °C) on March 3, 1957, and the hottest was 98 °F (37 °C) on October 9, 1981; the record cold daily maximum is 71 °F (22 °C) on February 4, 1935, while the record warm daily minimum is 83 °F (28 °C) on August 11, 1995, the most recent of four occasions. Rainfall is well-distributed throughout the year, but the months of January, February, and March are the driest; as March averages just 1.95 inches (49.5 mm) of rain, the city falls under the tropical monsoon category. Rainfall averages 56.35 inches (1,431.3 mm), falling on an average 198.5 days per year; despite this dampness, the city averages 2,970 hours of sunshine per year, or just over ⅔ of the possible total. Annual rainfall has historically ranged from 35.53 in (902 mm) in 1991 to 89.50 in (2,273 mm) in 2010.

Cityscape

General view of harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico looking South to San Juan Bay, 1927. The clock tower building at center was the San Juan Rail Terminal.

Architecture

Puerto Rico 01
Old San Juan

The architecture of San Juan is very diverse, due to its size and all the cultural influences received during its existence. The oldest part of the city, known as Old San Juan, mostly features the influence of Spanish architecture. This part of the city is comprised by a network of "setted" roads usually surrounded by ancient, two-storied houses built on masonry. Some colonial structures have been restored and serve either as government offices or museums. Some examples are the Ballajá Barracks, which now serve as museum and headquarter of several cultural organizations; La Fortaleza, which has served as the residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico since the 16th Century; and the Ancient Welfare Asylum, which now houses the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, among others. Old San Juan also features several public squares, like the Plaza de Armas, located in front of San Juan City Hall; and cathedrals, like the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Old San Juan is also notable for being partly enclosed by massive walls and fortifications built by the Spanish government.

The architecture is more varied in other districts of the city. The district of Santurce features a lot of influence from art deco, while the districts of Hato Rey feature more modern structures.

Districts

Map of San Juan Districts
Districts of San Juan

What is now known as Old San Juan occupied the western end of a rocky islet, the Isleta de San Juan, at the mouth of San Juan Bay. During the 20th century, the main population centers surged well beyond the walls of the old city and onto Puerto Rico's main island, and merged with the existing settlements east and south of Old San Juan. With the annexation of Río Piedras in 1951, the municipality of San Juan grew four times its previous size. As a result, the city is now composed of a variety of districts and neighborhoods. San Juan is now subdivided into 18 districts (barrios), 16 of which fall within the former municipality of Río Piedras. Eight districts are further subdivided into sectors (sub-barrios), including two districts in the area that covered the original municipality of San Juan. The 18 districts are:

Old San Juan

San Juan 3
Some of Old San Juan streets are still paved with blue cobblestones from the Spanish colonial era.

During the Spanish colonial times most of the urban population resided in what is now known as Old San Juan. This sector is located on the western half of a small island called the Isleta de San Juan, which is connected to the mainland by two bridges and a causeway. The small island, which comprises an area of 47 square miles (120 km2), also hosts the working-class neighborhood of Puerta de Tierra and most of Puerto Rico's central government buildings, including the Commonwealth's Capitol.

The main central part of the city is characterized by narrow streets made of blue cobblestone and picturesque colonial buildings, some of which date back to the 16th and 17th century. Sections of the old city are surrounded by massive walls and several defensive structures and notable forts. These include the 16th-century Fort San Felipe del Morro and the 17th-century Fort San Cristóbal, both part of San Juan National Historic Site, and the 16th-century El Palacio de Santa Catalina, also known as La Fortaleza, which serves as the governor's mansion. Other buildings of interest predating the 20th century are the Ayuntamiento or Alcaldía (City Hall), the Diputación Provincial and the Real Intendencia buildings, which currently house the Puerto Rico Department of State, the Casa Rosa, the San José Church (1523) and the adjacent Hotel El Convento, the former house of the Ponce de León family known as Casa Blanca, the Teatro Tapia, the former Spanish barracks (now Museum of Ballajá), La Princesa (former municipal jail, now headquartering the Puerto Rico Tourism Company), and the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, located just outside the city walls. The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista (construction began in the 1520s) is also located in Old San Juan, and contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer and settlement founder Juan Ponce de León. Old San Juan, also known as the "old city", is the main cultural tourist attraction in Puerto Rico; its bayside is lined by dock slips for large cruise ships.

Other districts

East of Old San Juan lies the wealthy tourist-oriented neighborhood of Condado, which occupies land that used to be owned by entrepreneur Pablo Ubarri Capetillo, a Spanish railroad developer and Count of San José de Santurce under the Spanish colonial period. Beaches such as nearby Ocean Park, popular with swimmers, surfers and kitesurfers, are found all along the district's Atlantic coastline which is also the locus of numerous hotels.

Near Condado are two separate business districts, Santurce and Miramar. Miramar is mainly a residential area rising south of the Condado Lagoon. It comprises the former barrio of Miraflores, as well as drained marshland and landfill over which was built San Juan's first airport, the Isla Grande airport, which was renamed Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport in honor of Major Fernando Luis Ribas-Dominicci (USAF). Miramar now hosts the Puerto Rico Convention Center as well as some of San Juan Harbor's cruise ship piers. In 2005 Miramar was designated an historical district of Puerto Rico.

Santurce, originally named San Mateo de Cangrejos (Saint Matthew of the Crabs), was a settlement for freed African slaves during the early days of the city. After Pablo Ubarri sought permission to link San Juan with Río Piedras proper via steam tramway in 1878, the time it took to travel between both points were shortened and thereby stimulated the colonization and growth of the district. At the beginning of the twentieth century an electric trolley was installed, the township was split into three parts, and its main settlement, merged with the city, was renamed using the Spanish spelling of Santurtzi (Saint George in Basque), Ubarri's birthplace in Vizcaya, Spain. The "Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico" (Puerto Rico Museum of Art) and other important cultural venues are located in Santurce.

Old San Juan Street
Looking down an Old San Juan street towards the bay

South of Santurce is Hato Rey, part of the former municipality of Río Piedras. Hato Rey was grazing ground for cattle owned by the royal government (hence its name, the King's Herd in Spanish) as early as the 16th century, and is now considered the financial center of the island. A section of this district is often referred to as Milla de Oro (actually 0.47 miles or 0.76 kilometres long) due in part to the many banks and businesses located there.

In the southern part of the city is the socially diversified community of Río Piedras. Founded in the mid-1850s, Río Piedras was a separate town which hosted sugar cane plantations and the estates of some of San Juan's wealthiest inhabitants (as well as their working class staff). The Spanish colonial governors also had their summer home there on land which eventually gave way to the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico. In 1951 the municipalities of San Juan and Río Piedras were merged to redefine San Juan's current city limits. Today Río Piedras comprises the largest area of the municipality of San Juan. and is home to the "Plaza del Mercado" (Río Piedras Marketplace), the main campus and the Medical Sciences campus of the University of Puerto Rico and the San Juan Botanical Garden.

Demographics

Race – San Juan, Puerto Rico – 2010 Census
Race Population  % of Total
White 268,708 68.0%
Black/African American 73,538 18.4%
American Indian and Alaska Native 3,071 0.8%
Asian 1,750 0.4%
Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islander 36 0.0%
Some other race 32,386 8.2%
Two or more races 15,835 4.0%
Population of San Juan
Year Pop. ±%
1899 32,048 —    
1910 48,716 +52.0%
1920 69,733 +43.1%
1930 114,715 +64.5%
1940 169,247 +47.5%
1950 224,767 +32.8%
1960 451,658 +100.9%
1970 463,242 +2.6%
1980 434,849 −6.1%
1990 437,745 +0.7%
2000 434,374 −0.8%
Source: Census
Population of Río Piedras
Year Pop. ±%
1899 13,760 —    
1910 18,880 +37.2%
1920 24,745 +31.1%
1930 40,853 +65.1%
1940 68,290 +67.2%
1950 134,989 +97.7%
2000 332,344 +146.2%

San Juan is the largest city in Puerto Rico by population. From 1899 to 1950 the municipality of San Juan excluded the township of Río Piedras. For this reason, population data and land area for the period make reference only to the Antiguo San Juan and Santurce barrios, or subdivisions, of San Juan. The old municipality of Río Piedras constituted the third most populated city of Puerto Rico at the time of its annexation in 1951. Its strategic location south of the capital served as a junction for all the principal ways of transportation of the island and as a geographical entry to San Juan, which are factors that prompted Río Piedras's dramatic urban development in the 20th century.

According to the 2010 Census, the racial composition of San Juan was as follows:

Among the Hispanic and Latino population, Puerto Ricans are, unsurprisingly, the largest group; they make up 87.5% of San Juan's Hispanic population. People of Dominican descent made up 7.6% of the Hispanic population, while those of Cuban descent formed 1.7% of the Hispanic populace. Other Hispanic and Latino groups collectively formed 3.2% of San Juan's Hispanic population.

There are 4,822 whites of non-Hispanic origin living in San Juan; 1,187 blacks of non-Hispanic origin living in San Juan. Non-Hispanic whites and blacks form 1.2% and 0.3% of San Juan's population respectively. There are also approximately 673 Asians of non-Hispanic origin in San Juan; they make up less than 0.1% of the population. However, Asians of Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin together number at 6,342.

The vast majority of Asians in San Juan are of Chinese descent; of the 6,342 Asians, 4,928 are Chinese. Chinese comprise 1.4% of the population. The only other sizable Asian group in San Juan are Indian Americans; there are 698 people of Indian descent in the city, forming 0.2% of the population. There are very small numbers of people of Filipino, Japanese, and Vietnamese ancestry; none of these groups number more than 100 members.

According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, 87.5% of San Juan's population was native and 12.5% were foreign-born. Of the native population, 86.9% were born in Puerto Rico or the U.S. proper, of which 75.6% were born in Puerto Rico and 8.9% were born in the U.S. The other 0.7% were born in a different U.S. territory or born abroad to American parents. The remaining 11.9% of the population were born outside the United States and U.S. territories.

In recent years, an increasing number of Americans not of Hispanic ancestry (both of African American and of White American descent) have moved to San Juan. In addition, a large number of Stateside Puerto Ricans have settled in the city upon their return to Puerto Rico. There is also a growing West Indian population, both of Hispanic and non-Hispanic origin.

In terms of ancestry, 23,875 people claimed American ancestry, which is equivalent to 5.8% of San Juan's population. Other sizable ancestry groups included those of Italian descent, French descent, and West Indian descent. People of Italian descent numbered at 1,694, forming 0.4% of the population; people of French descent numbered at 1,064, forming 0.2% of the population. Finally, those of West Indian descent numbered at 1,393, forming 0.3% of San Juan's population. Approximately 1,026 people claimed Sub-Saharan African ancestry; 719 claimed Irish ancestry; 646 claimed German ancestry; 431 claimed Arab ancestry, and 346 claimed English ancestry. There are many other ancestry groups in San Juan, but they are very scant.

Culture

San Juan is the birthplace of artists and musicians, locally known as Sanjuaneros, who have significantly influenced Puerto Rican culture. During the 20th century, the musical aspect of the city was influenced by performers including Afro-Caribbean dancer and choreographer Sylvia del Villard and José Enrique Pedreira who became a composer of Puerto Rican Danzas. International musicians such as opera singer Justino Díaz and Grammy Award winners Ramón Ayala (Daddy Yankee) and Ricky Martin were born in the city. Other notable residents include writers Giannina Braschi and Tomas Blanco, award-winning actors Raúl Juliá and Benicio del Toro, and comedian José Miguel Agrelot. Rafael Cordero (1790–1868), was influential in the development of Puerto Rican education and has been once renowned as " The Father of Public Education in Puerto Rico". The city is also the home of contemporary and classic art museums. The Puerto Rico Arts Museum owns the largest collection of contemporary art in Puerto Rico, housing over 1,100 permanent art pieces and displaying temporary exhibitions containing artwork from various locations through Latin America.

The Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art, located in Santurce, specializes in contemporary artwork from Latin America and the Caribbean. The paintings displayed in the permanent exhibition are either acquired by the museum's administrative personnel or donated by artists and collectors. They are judged by a panel of painters, art critics, and scholars before being displayed.

Other museums such as the Pablo Casals Museum, the Book Museum, Americas Museum and the National Gallery display historic items and artwork alongside contemporary art. Miscellaneous museums such as the Children's Museum and the Bacardi Distillery (also known as the "Rum Cathedral") in nearby Cataño appeal to different audiences through interactive exhibitions.

Transportation

Airports

Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in Puerto Rico
Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport

The San Juan Metropolitan Area is served by two airports.

The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), San Juan's primary commercial airport, is located eight miles (12.9 km) from Old San Juan in the neighboring municipality of Carolina. The airport accommodates more than 30 domestic and international airlines and is the busiest airport in the Caribbean. It is often referred to as The Gateway to the Caribbean because it serves as the main connection to the island and the rest of the Caribbean for the United States and vice versa.

The area's secondary airport is the Fernando Ribas Dominicci Airport (SIG), located directly across the San Antonio Channel (Caño San Antonio) from Old San Juan in the Isla Grande district. Dominicci Airport is used mainly by general aviation aircraft, charter flights and some domestic commercial flights. It used to be the city's and also the island of Puerto Rico's main international gateway until the opening of Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport. It is now also widely used by the Isla Grande Flight School and Caribbean Flight Center, the only flight school on the island.

Highways and roads

Cars, houses, street light, man on bicycle and El Morro in Old San Juan
Norzagaray Street in Old San Juan

Some of the major highways and roads of San Juan include:

  • Puerto Rico Highway 52 (PR-52), also known as Luis A. Ferré Highway, runs from Santurce to Ponce through Caguas.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 1 (PR-1), also known as Carretera Central, Antigua Carretera Militar and La Muda between Río Piedras and Caguas, runs from Santurce to Ponce through Cayey and the Cordillera Central.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 2 (PR-2), also known as Kennedy Expressway between San Juan and Guaynabo, runs from Santurce to Ponce through Mayagüez.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 3 (PR-3), also known as 65 de Infantería Avenue between Río Piedras and Carolina, runs from Hato Rey to Salinas through Humacao.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 22 (PR-22), also known as José de Diego Expressway, runs from Santurce to Hatillo.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 8 (PR-8) runs from Sabana Llana Norte to barrio Oriente and the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 16 (PR-16) runs parallel to PR-1 from the Port of San Juan in Hato Rey to the Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport in Isla Grande.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 18 (PR-18), also known as Las Américas Expressway, runs from Hato Rey Norte to Monacillo Urbano.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 20 (PR-20), also known as Rafael Martínez Nadal Expressway, runs from Guaynabo Pueblo through Monacillo Urbano and Gobernador Piñero to Caparra.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 26 (PR-26), also known as Román Baldorioty de Castro Expressway, runs from Santurce to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and Carolina.
  • Puerto Rico Highway 28 (PR-28), also known as Francisco José de Goya Avenue, runs from the Port of San Juan to Bayamón.

There are 193 bridges in San Juan.

Public transport

Estación Universidad - Tren Urbano
Universidad station

At 4,300 vehicles per paved mile, San Juan has by far the highest density of vehicles on the road of any city in the world. The city is served by five limited-access expressways and highways and numerous arterial avenues and boulevards but continues to suffer from severe traffic congestion.

The Metropolitan Bus Authority (Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses or AMA in Spanish) provides daily bus transportation to residents of San Juan, Guaynabo, Bayamón, Toa Baja, Trujillo Alto, Cataño and Carolina through 30 fixed routes. Its fleet consists of 277 regular buses and 35 handicap-accessible buses. AMA's ridership is estimated at 112,000 on weekdays.

SanJuan-Condado-IslaVerde
The T5, 21 and 53 buses pass between Old San Juan, Condado and Isla Verde. More information is available at http://sjbus.info/

In an attempt to decrease vehicle dependency and road congestion, the city built a metro system dubbed "Tren Urbano" ("Urban Train"). The 10.7-mile (17.2 km) line connects to 16 stations. The project, which opened in late 2004, cost $2.25 billion and was more than $1 billion over budget and four years late. The Tren Urbano has received less ridership than was originally projected and has not significantly reduced the city's automobile traffic, despite a reported 7.5% ridership increase in 2006 over 2005. There is a planned project to build an "interurban light rail system" connecting the cities of San Juan and Caguas.

Increased investment in public transportation, however, has not changed the fact that San Juan is an automobile-reliant city and its fast growth has sparked urban sprawl. As of mid-2010, the government has approved plans for a redesign of this Puerto Rican city, featuring a new mass transit system, new roads and intersections, and more beach-access points. No cars will be allowed inside the oldest part of city (Old San Juan). The plans hope to remedy previous poor urban planning in the oldest section of the city, the Isleta, while curbing reliance on motor vehicles. The plans for redevelopment also hope to make the city more appealing in order to attract new residents, as San Juan has suffered from a shrinking population over the past 60 years.

Port

Lancha de Cataño panorama
Cataño Ferry

The Port of San Juan is the fourth busiest seaport in the Western Hemisphere, ranked among the top 17 in the world in terms of container movement. It is also the largest home-based cruise port in the world with over a dozen cruise ships. It is the second busiest port in cruise volume after Miami. It is managed by the Puerto Rico Ports Authority.

AcuaExpreso is a ferry service in the San Juan Bay, consisting of the Cataño Ferry (Lancha de Cataño) service between downtown Cataño and Old San Juan, and the AquaExpress which connects Old San Juan to Hato Rey and the Tren Urbano.

International relations

Twin towns – sister cities

San Juan is twinned with:

Economy

San Juan experienced significant economic growth following World War II. During this period the city underwent an industrial revolution, although as of 1984 it had never generated its own economic region. The city's economy relies mostly on companies dedicated to the manufacture of several products, including: Chemical substances (bleach and house cleaning products); medicines; rum and other beverages; fertilizers; electric tools; electronic devices; plastics, textiles, and food-based products.

Tourism is also a key industry, based on San Juan's proximity to Puerto Rico's main airport, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. The tourism focus of the city is located in the district of Condado Beach where there are luxurious hotels. Historical locations such as El Morro, Old San Juan and El Cuartel de Ballaja are promoted in tourism campaigns. The district of Hato Rey contains a corporate sector known as "La Milla de Oro", (The Golden Mile) which serves as the headquarters of local and international banks. San Juan's Hato Rey district is often referred to as the "Wall Street of the Caribbean", due to the influence of the area on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean's economy.

Seaborne Airlines is headquartered on the 9th floor of the World Plaza Building in San Juan.

Tourism

Street art, statues in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Statues where people gather in Old San Juan
Flying into San Juan-Puerto Rico
San Juan beach

Technological advances after World War II in the development of the airliner, coupled with the island's climate and natural setting, have transformed San Juan into the springboard for tourism around the island, and has made the rest of the Caribbean known throughout the world during the last fifty years. Today the capital features hotels, museums, historical buildings, restaurants, beaches and shopping centers. In San Juan there are tourist attractions, including: Old San Juan, Ocean Park, Isla Verde and Condado.

Places and monuments emphasized in tourism campaigns include: Old San Juan, promoting the historic nature of its colonial buildings and narrow streets covered by adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag; they were brought over as ballast on Spanish ships. This includes the city's ancient defensive wall and forts, most notably El Morro and the Castillo San Cristóbal. On January 23, 1984 both of these edifices were catalogued as being part of humanity's cultural patrimony. The restaurants and art galleries in the zone are visited by tourists. The local universities are promoted as historic places, most notably the campus of University of Puerto Rico located in Río Piedras, which is the oldest university on the island being founded in 1903.

Post Hurricane Maria

An April 2019 report indicated that, by that time, repairs after Hurricane Maria were moving rapidly. Only a few hotels were still closed in San Juan and that life for tourists in and around the capital had, for the most part, returned to normal. By October 2019, nearly all of the popular amenities for tourists, in the major destinations such as San Juan, Ponce and Arecibo, were in operation on the island and tourism was rebounding. This was important for the economy, since tourism provides up 10% of Puerto Rico's GDP, according to Discover Puerto Rico.

In late November 2019, reports indicated that 90 calls to San Juan by Royal Caribbean ships would be cancelled during 2020 and 2021. This step would mean 360,000 fewer visitors, with a loss to the island's economy of $44 million. As well, 30 ship departures from San Juan were being canceled. The rationale for this decision was discussed in a news report, as follows:

The reason for the cancellations is the privatization of the cruise docks in San Juan due to much-needed maintenance that is needed. Around $250 million investment is needed to make sure cruise ships can continue to dock there in the years to come. There is an urge for governor Wanda Vazquez to not go ahead with the privatization so this news is fluid.

Sports

Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot
A night view of the José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum

Teams based in San Juan have been notably successful in athletic competition. The Santurce Crabbers won the National Superior Basketball League championship in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003 during this period being recognized as a dynasty. The San Juan Senators and the Santurce Crabbers were the two major baseball teams in the city, winning the championship of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League a total of 17 times. The Santurce Crabbers are located third among teams with more championships in the Caribbean Series, winning championships in the 1951, 1953, 1955, 1993 and 2000 editions of the tournament. The city has also been the host of events within the sports community; some examples include:

  • Host of the 1966 Central American and Caribbean Games.
  • Host of the 1979 Pan American Games.
  • Hosted the Caribbean World Series nine times.
  • Major League Baseball's Montreal Expos played 22 home games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium between 2003 and 2004. The team also briefly considered moving permanently to San Juan before relocating to Washington, D.C.
  • Hosted the 2006, 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classic at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
  • Host of the 1974 FIBA World Championship (basketball).
  • Host of the FIBA Americas Championship five times (1980, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2009).
  • Hosted the very first edition of World Wrestling Entertainment's pay per view New Year's Revolution was held at the José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum in January 2005.
  • The Latin American Regional Special Olympics in February 2010.
  • Host of Major League Baseball's 2010 "San Juan Series", three games of the Mets at Marlins held on June 28–30, 2010 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

The $28 million San Juan Natatorium attracts island-wide and regional swim meets, as well as winter training by top-rated mainland U.S. colleges and universities, including the United States Military Academy at West Point and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

In July 2007, the San Juan Golf Academy and its driving range began operating atop the city's former sanitary landfill in Puerto Nuevo, and will eventually include the city's first and only 9-hole golf course.

Professional teams

Club Sport League Venue
Cangrejeros de Santurce Basketball Baloncesto Superior Nacional Roberto Clemente Coliseum
Cangrejeros de Santurce Baseball Puerto Rico Baseball League Hiram Bithorn Stadium
Atléticos de San Juan Football/Balompié (Soccer) Puerto Rico Soccer League
Academia Quintana
San Juan United Puerto Rico Soccer League Second Division Sixto Escobar Stadium

Education

Colleges and universities

Torre Universidad de-Puerto Rico Rio Piedras
The main tower of the University of Puerto Rico campus in Río Piedras

San Juan is home to many of Puerto Rico's institutions of higher learning. The University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus is located in San Juan, along with the University of Puerto Rico's Medical Sciences Campus. Other colleges located in San Juan are the University of the Sacred Heart, the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, the Ana G. Méndez University System's Metropolitan University, the Metropolitan Campus of the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, the Carlos Albizu University, the Evangelic Seminary of Puerto Rico and the Center for Advanced Studies on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. There are smaller colleges located in the city, including the ICPR Junior College, the Instituto de Banca y Comercio and the International Junior College, located in Santurce.

There are also several technical schools based in San Juan, including the Technological College of San Juan, the Liceo de Artes y Ciencias, Ramirez College of Business and Technology, and the Puerto Rico Technical Junior College. The Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and the School of Fine Arts in Old San Juan specialize in education that promotes the fine arts and music.

Public and private schools

Also, San Juan is home to 136 public schools operated by the Puerto Rico Department of Education. Most of the specialized schools operated by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are located in San Juan. These schools emphasize topics such as Science and Math, Radio and Television, Arts, Trade, Music, and Sports, but also include other subjects such as Spanish, English, and Social Studies in their curriculum.

In addition to dozens of state-run elementary, intermediate, and high schools, the government of the city of San Juan operates two bilingual schools, including one sports-magnet school, the first municipal-run schools in Puerto Rico. Several private schools are located in San Juan, including Robinson and St. John's schools in the Condado, Perpetuo Socorro in Miramar, St. John's Episcopal, Santa Mónica and Academia San Jorge in Santurce, Commonwealth High School, La Merced and Espíritu Santo in Hato Rey, Escuela Josefita Monserrate de Selles, San Antonio, Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola, San José in Río Piedras and Cupeyville, St. Mary's, Boneville and Cupey Maria Montesory School in Cupey.

Notable people from San Juan

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