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  • The capital of Puerto Rico is the oldest city under U. Augustine, Florida, founded in is the oldest city in the continental United States.

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    The history of San Juan begins a long time before its official foundation, induring his second voyage, Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico. He founded the original settlement in Caparra, now known as Pueblo Viejo, behind the almost land-locked harbor just to the west of the present metropolitan area and the city quickly became Spain's most important military outpost in the Caribbean.

    A year later, the original settlement was relocated to a nearby coastal islet to the site of what is now called Old San Juan and named Puerto Rico Rich Port. Sometime during the s, confusion over the names led to a switch, the island took the name of Puerto Rico and the town became San Juan.

    Today, San Juan is known as La Ciudad Amurallada the walled city and is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean and is the second oldest European-founded city in theAmericas after Santo Domingo, which was officially founded on August 5, The metropolitan area known as San Juan has 3 distinct areas: During the early 16th century, San Juan was the point of departure of Spanish expeditions to charter or settle unknown parts of the New World.

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    Its fortifications repulsed the English navigator Sir Francis Drake inas well as later attacks. San Juan is the largest processing center of the island, the metropolitan area has facilities for petroleum and sugar refining, brewing and distilling and produces cement, pharmaceuticals, metal products clothing, and tobacco. The port is one of the busiest in the Caribbean.

    San Juan is the country's financial capital, and many U. San Juan is center of Caribbean shipping and is the 2nd largest sea port in the area after New York City.

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    Points of Interest Old San Juan This is a year-old neighborhood originally conceived as a military stronghold. Its 7-square-block area has evolved into a charming residential and commercial district. The streets here are paved with cobbles of adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag; they were brought over a ballast on Spanish ships and time and moisture have lent them their characteristic color. The city includes more than carefully restored 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings.

    Old San Juan is a main spot for local and internal tourism and attracts many tourists, who also enjoy the gambling casinos, fine beaches, and tropical climate. More tourists visit San Juan each year than any other spot in the Caribbean. A leisurely foot tour is advisable for those who really want to experience this bit of the Old World, especially given the narrow, steep streets and frequently heavy traffic.

    To really do justice to these wonderful old sites, you'll need two mornings or a full day. Old San Juan provides a free trolley service to get you around the city. The trolley runs every day Monday through Friday from 7am until 6pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am until 7pm every 15 minutes. Most of the trolleys are accessible for wheelchairs and mobility devices and identified with the blue International Symbol of Accessibility. Rent the Bicycle, Old San Juan has several plazas: The plaza is skirted by a number of historic buildings.

    This plaza is the cornerstone of Puerto Rico's commemoration of the th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World, has a sculpture which rises 12 meters 40 feet. The monumental totemic sculpture in black granite and ceramics symbolizes the earthen and clay roots of American history and is the work of Jaime Suarez, one of Puerto Rico's foremost artists.

    Features four statues representing the four seasons; all are over years old.

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    It was carefully planned as the main city square and has served as a social meeting place for generations. James Square was renamed in to honor Christopher Columbus on the th anniversary of his discovery of Puerto Rico; bronze tablets at the pedestal of the Columbus statue record important episodes in the explorer's life.

    Plazuela de la Rogativa Plaza of Religious Procession was built infeatures a modern sculpture depicting a procession of religious women commemorates an event that took place on the site in During the spring of that year, a fleet of British ships led by under Sir Ralph Ambercrombie sailed into San Juan Bay, meaning to launch an assault on the city and take control of the colony. When the attack was foiled, they undertook a naval blockade of San Juan, hoping to starve the residents into submission.

    As the towns people began to despair of any help from soldiers garrisoned in the inland towns, the governor ordered a rogativa, or divine entreaty, to ask the saints for assistance. The women of the town formed a procession through the streets, carrying torches and ringing bells. The British, hearing the commotion and seeing the moving lights, decided that reinforcements had arrived and quickly sailed off.

    La Perla La Perla is a historical ramshackle barrio astride the northern historic city wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, stretching about yards m along the rocky Atlantic coast immediately east of the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery and down the slope from north of Calle Norzagaray.

    It is not probably a sight you expect to see in a major tourist zone.

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    Established in the late 19th century, the zone was designated for cemeteries, slaughterhouses, and homes of former slaves, servants and the homeless.

    The law required to be established away from the main city zone; in Old San Juan's case, outside the city walls. Over time, the city's poorer residents established their homes there. Today, La Perla has a population ofhousing units 29 unoccupied. Residents have defended their right to keep their homes despite goverment efforts to get them to move and transform the area to increase tourism revenue. If you have only one day to explore Old San Juan, these are my recommendations.

    This park overlooks the restored La Princesa Jail, now a government office with an attractive art gallery.

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    It is the perfect spot from which to enjoy a magnificent view of the harbor, city and mountains. It is also a great choice for families with small children; kids will enjoy interacting with the local pigeons. The word itself sounds powerful and this six-level fortress certainly is. The construction of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro began in when King Charles V of Spain authorized its construction, including the surrounding walls and completed in Most of the walls in the fort today were added later, in a period of tremendous construction from the 's's.

    Rising feet above the sea, its foot-thick wall proved a formidable defense. It fell only once, into a land assault by the Earl of Cumberland's forces. The fort is a maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts and ramps.

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    El Morro is studded with small, circular sentry boxes called garitas that have become a national symbol. The area was designated a National Historic Site in February, with 74 total acres.

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    It has the distinction of being the largest fortification in the Caribbean. Inin honor of the th anniversary of the discovery of Puerto Rico by Christopher Columbus, the fortress was restored to its historical architectural grace and beauty. Built in completed inwas considered the Gibraltar of the West Indies. It rose feet, covering 27 acres of land.

    As if its size and height weren't sufficient to intimidate enemies, its intricate modular design was sure to foil them. A strategic masterpiece, it features five independent units, each connected by moat and tunnel; each fully self-sufficient should the others fall.

    Open daily from 9am to 6pm; The Santa Elena Battery building with a long chimney-topped bunker was the formal army storage area. Buildings and Other Areas of Interest La Fortaleza also known as the Palacio de Santa Catalina began construction in and finalized the 25 of May ofas a fortress.

    It was authorized to be built by Charles V as a defense against Carib Indian attacks. The building was the first of a series of military facilities constructed in the Bay of San Juan, but soon later proved inadequate to guard the entrance to the harbor, and became the official Governor's Residence. The oldest governor's mansion still used as such in Western Hemisphere and part of the old city's World Heritage Site.

    It has been occupied twice by invaders; by the Earl of Cumberland in and by the Dutch General Bowdoin Hendrick in when the building was damaged by fire.

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    A major reconstruction was undertaken in Inthe building was remodeled and given a palatial aspect, uniting harmoniously 16th century military architecture with the refinements of the 19th century. It has been the home of governors of Puerto Rico and is the official residence of the current governor. Although the original structure Palatial Building surrounded by gardens was very primitive, La Fortaleza has undergone numerous changes over its years of history.

    Free tours are available daily. Tours last about 40 minutes.

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    Access to the official areas is not permitted. In the 's the building was heavily remodeled providing its present day facade intended by its builders to be an exact replica of Madrid's. The building has a tourism information center and a small gallery for periodic exhibitions.

    Open Mon-Fri 8am - 4pm, except holidays. El Capitolio Capitol Building of Puerto Rico hold the offices of senators on one wing and those of representatives on the other, with galleries, friezes, mosaics and an impressive rotunda in which Puerto Rico's constitution is exhibited. For more information call Education Puerto Rico's overall literacy rate of 90 percent and its budget for education is approximately 40 percent.

    Education is obligatory between 6 to 17 years old. Primary school consists of six grades; the secondary levels is divided into 2 cycles of 3 years each. The school term in public schools starts in August through mid-December and January through late May. The Department of Education oversees the public education system. The language used in the schools is Spanish, however, English is taught from kindergarten to high school as part of the school curriculum.

    Some private schools provides English programs where all classes are conducted in English except for the Spanish class. There are also several colleges and universities available throughout the island, including: It is also the only supplier of electricity in Puerto Rico. Electricity bills are to be paid every month. For more information contact the Customer Services Center at: New generators are being built to keep up with the demand by adding almost 1, megawatts of capacity by Two private co-generating plants are under construction.

    Tap water is considered safe to drink. Milk is pasteurized and dairy products are safe for consumption. Local meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat. Natural Gas Natural gas is delivered by the cylinder. Many Puerto Ricans use natural gas propane stoves instead of electric stoves.

    Propane cylinders can be obtained from a local propane gas supplier.

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    Solid Waste Puerto Rico has over 32 landfills and waste-burning facilities. As with electricity and water, the only supplier of garbage disposal is the government-run company called Autoridad de Desperdicios Solidos www.

    For more information call the main office at: The first local radio broadcast dating from and television from Dow Jones and Reuters are among the quotation and news services available.