Old San Juan, the Soul of the Island of Puerto Rico

san juan puerto ricoA network of narrow streets and spacious plazas draws the historic environment of the capital of Puerto Rico, the smallest of the Greater Antilles. For its blue tiles floors transits between poems history, legends and miracles that surround the city with his magic. Its colonial past is also its present, joyful and vital, because the day has 24 hours in which there is always something to celebrate.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursdays, 2.30am. In the Nuyorican Café not be a soul. It is the best musical theater of Old Town, on whose platform Spanish songwriters have passed since the cream of Latin jazz. And of course, salsa bands. Tonight playing batucada. A viewer with turquoise shirt looks from his table to the musicians and, after much thought, he finally started to dance with them. Is Mick Jagger, the legendary leader of the band Rolling Stones, who have chosen to janguear the favorite little bar other star systems as Benicio del Toro. Not everyone recognizes him: here are mostly twentysomethings, some with dreadlocks and others with certain bohemian. Sometimes you can not remember the road that takes you straight to Nuroyican, but a faint sound of bongos or perhaps a trumpet-blowing to anyone on cobalt blue cobblestones to the alley where it opens its doors. Many say that behind them lies the true spirit of Old San Juan, the place you need to know to know what’s going on. Concerts, theater, art exhibitions … all have a place in this little cafe, with so much history, so much magic mixture and as the Puerto Rican capital itself.

American restaurants in the Sofo. But what is a Nuyorican? Well, simply, a person born in New York, but Puerto Rican descent. Actress and singer

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico (Photo credit: Emilio Santacoloma)

Jennifer Lopez is a good example. Her latest conquest, a dancer named Casper, is the real talk at The Parrot Club, a place always in fashion in which you can spend hours happily between bacardíes pina coladas and lemon. This is the Sofo, area restaurants and nightclubs in Old San Juan, whose name is an acronym derived from two words, South Fortress, which is exactly the place where we meet, south of Fortaleza Street, just north of the Plaza de Colón.

Each December in the Sofo takes place a famous and busy culinary festival, which highlights the excellence of Creole cuisine, local cuisine, which is a bit Caribbean, a little African and Taino. Any excuse is good to mark something in a country like Puerto Rico. “Puerto Ricans are very celebrones” he tells me one of the barman, which reminds me that, having, there’s even a Banana Day and Chiringas Day. The kites are kites, kites, that twist happy in heaven any Sunday morning, without having to be his saint. The favorite spot for the little ones to make them dance in the clouds is the Morro, or what is the same, the Castle of San Felipe, a fortress built Spanish in the sixteenth century which is located at the entrance of the Bay of San Juan, 45 meters above sea level.

English: 42-foot high city wall near the city ...

English: 42-foot high city wall near the city gate in Old San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S.A. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Declared a National Historic Site, and also a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this bastion, which the legendary privateer Francis Drake failed assault and inviting imagine battles between galleons and pirate ships, puts us in connection with the distant past Puerto Rican lively capital, the second oldest colonial city in the Americas, starting point for Spanish expeditions to the New World unknown places. Although a modern San Juan, with its usual shopping boutiques villages of the most recognized names in fashion and avenues which includes many late model Mercedes parked in them, Old San Juan is the true heart of the city, with beautiful pastel houses and cobblestone streets carpeted, made with scraps of furnaces that Spanish vessels used as ballast.

Military origins. “In my Old San Juan, how many dreams I forged in my childhood years. / My first illusion and my sorrows of love are memories of the soul. / One afternoon I left strange nation, as fate would. / But my heart is waterfront was in my Old San Juan “. Whether the Luis Miguel sings as if they do Los Panchos, song composer Noel Estrada is famous throughout Latin America. Puerto Rico is now a commonwealth of the United States, but originally the capital was the most important Spanish military post overseas.

Old San Juan is located on a sort of island, connected to the main island by a causeway and several bridges. Benedictus Qui Venit In Nomine Domine. Even today you can read the inscription on the door of St. John-the only survivor of the six that had the wall-, a must for the new rulers and bishops who came here after landing at some point near the Palacio de Santa Catalina, also known as the Fortress, built in the middle of the sixteenth century at the express wish of the Emperor Charles V. It is considered the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere, current residence of the governor of Puerto Rico. Yes, Luis Fortuño live here and not in the White House, the house-strong family of Juan Ponce de León, which has now been converted into a museum, with period furniture, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and a throne room prepared in his time for the possible visit of the king of Spain.

Of Gods and devils. There are even more defensive buildings in Old San Juan. If the San Felipe castle served to protect the city from possible attacks

Aeriel view of Old San Juan with the Luquillo ...

Aeriel view of Old San Juan with the Luquillo Mountain Range (Sierra de Luquillo) in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

marine, Fort San Cristobal, built in the seventeenth century, had avoiding terrestrial mission. Double gates and a complicated network of tunnels made the mission easier colossal fortress, the largest built by the Spanish in the New World, that it covered over 200 acres (about 81 hectares) of land and inspire some other legend. It is said that in one of their booths, the more isolated and old fort, the soldier disappeared one night Sánchez, aka Orange Blossom, and baptized by the color of their skin white. A rifle, uniform and holster are the only objects found him the next morning from his night duty, with the mysterious rumor bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and the whistling wind as a witness. Who knows if it took him flying through the sky and beyond Satan himself, as he thought the remaining guards, but the truth is that today this place is known as Devil’s Sentry. But not only is no reason to panic in Old San Juan, which also occurred some miracles here. Like that lies behind the construction of the Chapel of Christ the eighteenth century, built on the same site in which a young man managed to survive for divine intercession after falling from his horse. Inside an altarpiece carved in wood and some paintings by José Campeche, Puerto Rican painter considered one of the best rococo artists in the Americas.

There are still more miracles. Or, at least, strange happenings to tell. Some believe that the body of the martyr St. Pius, which rests in the Cathedral, still today we grow nails and hair. No need to go to check it, but it seems essential to make a visit to the place chosen for his eternal abode, which is also buried Juan Ponce de León. The Cathedral of San Juan powerful, imposing and stately, has suffered his own: it was built in 1521 and has since supported the passage of two hurricanes and as many earthquakes.

Squares and streets in celebration. The square on which stands the temple was known as the Nun, because here was long a Carmelite convent, now converted into a hotel. There are more places in Old San Juan. The most central is the de Armas, which was used at one time for military trainings with a fountain representing the four seasons. In the de Hostos brings together artisans and enthusiasts domino board game that is almost a national sport here and in other countries such as Cuba or Venezuela.

Very popular is also the Plaza de San José, where it is located the Pau Casals Museum, located in the house where the Catalan cellist and composer spent the last 17 years of his life. Another important museum is the Art and History, opened in 1979 on the premises of an old market. There are always activities around him during the festival of San Sebastian, in the month of January, in which people take to the streets to end the holiday season. There are parades of big heads-with Dona Fela and Juan Bobo-sow, concerts, dances, craft stalls and food and drink for all.

To take a pirogue (a refreshing shaved ice and sweetened tamarind juice, guava or pineapple) no need to wait to begin the festivities. You can always buy in shopping every two steps flood the Paseo de la Princesa, culminating in the romantic boardwalk, which, at nightfall, move couples holding hands. Watching them makes sense Martin Espada’s poem about coca-cola and cold coconut. JLo may be one of the most visible faces of Puerto Rico, where kids dress in t-shirts and when questions if soon going to drop one of those showers that last only a few seconds someone answer “maybe, maybe”. But in the old capital of the island of enchantment, the fourth largest of the Greater Antilles, the story is taking place. “From looking at you so, so much / the sand horizon”, the poet Pedro Salinas, buried in the cemetery of St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, loved her. And all that comes, her immense joy.

Escambrón Beach
Just off of Old San Juan opens Escambrón beach, white sand and calm waters, framed by coral reefs and trees that provide shade when the sun begins to tighten. Sandwiched between the rocks, this beach does not seem to be never full of people even if, in the morning, is full of old people doing their stretching routines and, in the evenings, and the edge of the night, the younger they meet in groups, with ice cream in hand or newly purchased cotton candy. In the area closest to the walls can snorkel and see how they spend with us fish of all colors … Some people prefer to get away from the sea and behold in the distance sitting on a park bench Pigeon at the end of the Calle del Cristo, which needless to explain why his name. Traditionally obliged to feed these birds, you can buy bags of corn here, and feel like one among the crowd. A place “nice and relaxing” for which they have been generations of Puerto Ricans, who will surely keep at home snapshots of a peaceful fun family afternoon.