Puerto Rico’s Historic Treasures Enchant Visitors
- Puerto Rico
Carlos Almodóvar has worked at Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal for 16 years, initially in cultural resources and more recently as a park ranger/interpreter.
The Puerto Rico native enjoys sharing his passion for the island’s history with visitors. “I love the fact that centuries of history can be explored right here, among the forts’ massive walls and imposing towers," he says.
Popular Island Landmark
El Morro and San Cristóbal are the two forts that make up the San Juan National Historic Site, which draws more than a million visitors each year. Almodóvar especially enjoys wandering across the vast battlegrounds that lead up to El Morro. “They’re very popular with kite flyers and offer great views of the sunset across the harbor,” he says.
Carlos Almodóvar, park ranger/interpreter at Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Long, Rich History
El Morro was built to defend San Juan (Puerto Rico’s capital) from attack from the bay. In one of the batteries, Almodóvar shows visitors a fragment of an artillery shell that can be seen lodged in the ceiling, illustrating the long range of the fort’s history (the tower dates to 1539, and the shell, which is from the Spanish American War, dates to 1898).
Multifaceted, Multilevel Attraction
The fort’s famous lighthouse, which is open to public tours, was built in 1846 and rebuilt in 1908. In the highly decorated Greco-Roman chapel, Almodóvar points out to visitors how the masons’ skills shaped the intricate structure. In all, the fort has six levels, all with cannons that have defended the capital city.
Less Well-Known San Cristóbal
Built to withstand land-based attacks, San Cristóbal is huge, covering 11 hectares when it was finished in 1783 (portions have since been torn down). Almodóvar’s favorite portions to share with visitors are its tunnels and passageways, which were built to attack the enemy from underneath and to allow Spanish troops to move unseen between various parts of the fort.
Almodóvar’s Puerto Rico
Beyond the forts, Almodóvar enjoys showing off his native island. “In Old San Juan, we explore the Paseo de la Princesa, a 19th-century promenade, to watch the cruise ships and check out the shops,” he says.
Other spots Almodóvar recommends to visitors: the rainforest at El Yunque, the Camuy Caves and the island of Culebra with its beautiful beaches. A less well-known favorite: Cabo Rojo in the southwest, where he suggests exploring the area around the lighthouse, cliffs and salt mines.