Puerto Rico was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. He named the place San Juan Baustista and sooner or later the people called it Boriquen Tierra del alto senor or the Land of the Noble Lord. Juan Ponce de Leon became the country’s first governor . Upon his arrival, he constituted a colony in Caparra until such time that Caparra had to be moved to a nearby location with a sound environment.
The name Caparra was changed to Puerto Rico which means Rich Port because its harbor is among the best in the world (Everyculture. com, n. d. . Antilles has a series of islands closely situated together with extends more than one thousand miles from Florida all the way to Venezuela or South America. There is the Greater Antilles and the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico together with Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti form part of the Greater Antilles. Puerto Rico is the smallest island in the easternmost part of Greater Antilles with a roughly rectangular shape (Solboricua. com,1998). The element, design and architecture of a particular place is as much important as everything else.
It is architecture that gives meaning to the place. Good architecture is a reflection of a country’s triumphs and adventures. Architecture at its best light makes the outline of the country. Buildings, cathedrals and homes scream out the personality of the nation and the people . A simple architecture can turn a piece of art into a masterpiece but great architecture breathes life into anything thereby enabling it to achieve a harmonious blend with the society. It is evident in the country’s architecture that Puerto Rico has a substantial amount of Spanish influence during the course of time.
The condensed, twisting cobblestone can be similarly compared with Andalusia of Spain. San Juan, otherwise known as La Ciudad Amurallada which is the capital city was founded in 1521. San Juan has a classic example of Spanish architecture, it is home to hundreds of reminiscent historical events. It has more than four hundred years of history stored inside a military threshold. The landmarks of the San Felipe del Morro are considered as one of Puerto Rico’s most prized treasures. After the commonwealth renovation, San Juan was turned into one of the most amazing tourist spot in the world.
The city was built using Spanish plans which was organized to make intersecting and perpendicular streets and plazas all over the city. Spanish architecture was brought back in the country during the American occupation. The families belonging to the elites built fortresses and castles that resemble Art Deco structures (Everyculture. com, n. d. ). Puerto Rico has been the home of 16th and 19th century architecture. This country has been the home of classical, contemporary and medieval architecture. Gothic architecture can be seen as well in the San Juan church which was built in the 16th century.
The El Morro Fortress is considered an international site. This is a six-level fortress that was built in 1540 and was finished in 1589. The name San Felipe del Morro was adopted in honor of King Phillip II. This building is filled with dungeons and tunnels. It is now under the administration of the National Park Service. Along side the El Morro is the San Cristobal Fort. This ancient structure provided one of the largest defense in the history of America. Like the El Morro, it also contains mazes and tunnels which are built to stand on its own if ever the others would fall.
Another architectural wonder in Puerto Rico was the Plaza del Mercado which was an old market that had been revived and turned into a piece of tourist spot. The government allocated a substantial amount of their budget in order to restore their heritage (The Puerto Rico Channel, 2009). The part of Old San Juan is the home of breathtaking tourist attractions. Every year, more and more people go to Puerto Rico rather than any place in the Caribbean. This is the perfect place to see if people want to get a picture of the Old World. There are several plazas such as the Plaza de San Jose.
In the center of it stands the statue of Ponce de Leon made entirely of bronze. Plaza del Quinto Centenario has Christopher Columbus’ statue about forty feet made in ceramic and granite which can be interpreted to mean as a symbolism of American roots. It was the work of one of the country’s top artist, Jaime Suarez. Another interesting site would be the Plaza de Armas which has four statues each over a hundred years old, symbolizing the four seasons. Plaza de Colon otherwise known as Columbus Square contains tablets made in bronze in order to remember the significant aspects of his life.
The Plaza de la Rogativa’s main attraction was the sculpture of the procession of a pious lady. This piece of art signifies an important event which happened in that same place in 1797. In that year, a British troop lead by Sir Ambercrombie sailed onto the coast of San Juan bay with the plan of attacking the city and taking control. The plan failed so they resulted in alternate plan of blocking the port of the city in the hopes of starving the residents until they come into a point of surrender. The whole town grew desperate so the governor told the people to call for divine assistance.
In response, all the women in town gathered and formed a procession carrying bells and torches. When the British heard the bell and saw all the lights, they thought that reinforcements came to the aid of the people so they left ( Puerto Rico, 2009). It is a wonderful thing that Puerto Rico imbibed the rich culture of Spain during its colonization but as good as it may be, the country also has its own pure and uninfluenced Puerto Rican architecture. An example would be its very own Caribe Hotel. Its colors, structure and striking murals reflect its own rich culture and not Spain’s.
The main feature of of this hotel is that it was once a part of the medieval fort that the Spanish explorers used (The Puerto Rico Channel, 2009). The beauty of this country is that it never runs out of sights that stand out during the course of time. A person can look every direction and see pieces of architecture lying all over the country such as fortresses, parks, churches and buildings. La Fortaleza was built as a defense against attacks of the Indians. This structure was the very first among the several military concentration camps that were constructed along side the San Juan Bay.
The original structure underwent changes because of the passing of the time so in the late 1800’s, this building was reconstructed. Puerto Rico also has its very own Madrid in the heart of San Juan city, it is called Alcadia. When it comes to churches, Puerto Rico has a handful. The San Juan Cathedral, the second oldest cathedral in the west was built in 1521. The very first building was made of wood but it got destroyed by a hurricane two times, once in 1540 and again in 1598. The Cathedral standing today was the result of efforts to restore the structure that once was in order to preserve the its heritage.
In the church lies the tomb of the country’s first ever governor Ponce de Leon. The San Jose Church was the first ever church and monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas which was constructed by the Dominicans in the memory of Saint Thomas de Aquinas and also to serve not only as a refuge but a sanctuary as well. Puerto Rico is a country blessed with museums. The Pablo Casals Museum is considered a Spanish legacy . It contains artifacts, memorabilia and library full of tapes of festivals and concerts. Casa de los Dones or the House of the Two Foyers is Puerto Rico’s home of the Indians located at the streets of San Juan.
It is full of archaeological exhibits. The Asilo de Beneficencia was built to help poor people. It was constructed during the 1800’s . The place now offers exhibits everyday, it is called the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. Puerto Rico’s White House called the Casa Blanca was the former residence of Governor Ponce de Leon and his children’s children for over two hundred years. After the military took over, they used it as home for the commanders. The White House today holds over several rooms each designed with a different period associated with the history of the house (Puerto Rico, 2009).
Many art lovers and scholars firmly believe that architecture greatly contributes to the pillar of success of any nation. Puerto Rico is a classic example that architecture gives life to the nation. Through a country’s architecture, its history can be fully appreciated. Somebody once said that the present can never be understood without knowing the past. In the same way, the value of Puerto Rico’s deep and rich culture can never be fully appreciated without the beaming architectural structures of the fortresses, cathedrals and museums.
These architectural pieces holds in time all that the country went through, from the time when the island was first discovered until the Spanish colonization and the modernization. Every memory that the country holds dear are steps away from each other. Taking a look and examining the historical landmarks all over Puerto Rico enables any person to take a trip down the country’s very own memory lane. The country itself is a living memorabilia of everything that went through its nation and this fact can be greatly attributed to its architecture.
Courtney from Study Moose
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