Puerto Rico, known as the Gibraltar of the Caribbean, was the first deep water port that ships encountered as they sailed into the Caribbean and as such was an important and desired port. In 1493, Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus and claimed for Spain; the native Tainos were subsequently killed or exploited in the Spanish conquest of the island. Spanish ships would rest at Puerto Rico after the long trans-Atlantic journey and then go on to Santo Domingo, Cuba, Mexico, and other Spanish territories in Central and South America. Spain considered Puerto Rico a key port in maintaining control over the Caribbean.
To protect Spanish possession of San Juan and Puerto Rico, the Spanish built La Fortaleza, Castillo San Felipe del Morro (1539-1787), and Castillo San Cristobal (1634-1790). Puerto Rico was attacked many times by the English, the Dutch, and the French; notably, San Juan was sacked by the English in 1598 and the Dutch in 1625. San Juan is proud of having repelled the infamous Sir Francis Drake’s naval attack in 1595, though it fell to the English in 1598.
During the Spanish-American War, the US gained control of Puerto Rico. During WWII, Puerto Rico served as a key port from which the US monitored the Caribbean for enemy ships.
Castillo San Cristobal
Castillo San Cristobal is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the Western Hemisphere. San Cristobal is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site (“La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site“) and is managed by the US National Park Service.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro)
Castillo San Felipe del Morro is one of the largest fortifications built by the Spanish in the Western Hemisphere. San Felipe del Morro is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site (“La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site“) and is managed by the US National Park Service.