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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

San Juan Gate and City Walls

San Juan Gate, built around 1635, several blocks downhill from the cathedral, was the main point of entry into San Juan if you arrived by ship in the 17th and 18th centuries. The gate is the only one remaining of the several that once pierced the fortifications of the old walled city. For centuries it was closed at sundown to cut off access to the historic old town.

The city walls around San Juan were built in 1630 to protect the town against both European invaders and Caribbean pirates. The city walls that remain today were once part of one of the most impregnable fortresses in the New World and even today are an engineering marvel. Their thickness averages 20 feet (6m) at the base and 12 feet (3.6m) at the top, with an average height of 40 feet (12m). At their top, notice the balconied buildings that served for centuries as hospitals and also residences of the island's various governors. Between Fort San Cristóbal and El Morro, bastions were erected at frequent intervals. The walls come into view as you approach from San Cristóbal on your way to El Morro

Around Old San Juan and the old city walls you see many cats like the one below. A local policewoman patrolling around San Juan Gate informed us that cats were brought by the Spanish to kill Plague-spreading rats. A few hundred of their descendants live in the area today and are cared for by government funds and employees.


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