Port of San Juan
Review and History

The Port of San Juan is the capital and biggest city in Puerto Rico. Located on the northern shores of the island, it is the second-oldest capital established by Europeans in the Americas. The Port of San Juan is a major seaport for Puerto Rico, and it is the US territory's center for finance, culture, manufacturing, and tourism. The Spanish originally called it "Ciudad de Puerto Rico" (or Rich City Port) and the island San Juan. Over time, common usage has reversed the names.

El Morro, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

In 2010, almost 382 thousand people lived in the Port of San Juan, but nearly 2.5 million lived in the urban area. The Port of San Juan is about 232 nautical miles (395 kilometers or 245 miles direct) east of the Port of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The Port of San Juan is also about 640 nautical miles (1128 kilometers or 700 miles direct) east of the Port of Kingston in Jamaica.

Port History

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon founded the first settlement in the area of the Port of San Juan, calling in Caparra, in 1508. In 1521, the settlement was moved to the harbor entrance and renamed to San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico. The Spanish began to fortify the settlement in 1533 to protect it from the indigenous Taino and other European powers. The first of the new defenses, La Fortaleza is now home to the governor’s mansion. The castle of San Felipe del Morro came after La Fortaleza.

Spanish explorers used the Port of San Juan as their departure point in the early 16th Century, and merchant vessels called often at the port. While it withstood attacks by many, including Sir Frances Drake in 1595, it was captured for a short time in 1589 by the 3rd Earl of Cumberland. In 1625, the Dutch made a surprise land-side assault to take the Port of San Juan, resulting in the construction of the fortress of San Cristobal, the biggest Spanish fort in the Americas.

In 1797, the British attacked the Port of San Juan again, laying siege to the Port of San Juan but were repelled by the strong Puerto Rican defenses. In 1898, the guns at San Cristobal fired on a US fleet that was bombing the Port of San Juan. That year, the Treaty of Paris made Puerto Rico a US territory. In 1983, UNESCO made the area containing El Morro, La Fortaleza, and San Cristobal a World Heritage Site.

The first American bullet of World War I was fired by the Puerto Rican Infantry Regiment in 1917 when Lieutenant Teofilo Marxauch ordered his men to fire on the German supply vessel, the Odenwald, as it attempted to leave the Port of San Juan’s Bay.

The Port of San Juan began to grow rapidly in the 20th Century. By the early 1980s, it had consumed several surrounding cities and suburbs. After World War II, the Port of San Juan experienced a vigorous industrial revolution. Manufacturers became critical to the local economy. Products made in the Port of San Juan include household cleaning products, medicines, electric tools, textiles, electronics, and food-based products.

Today, the Port of San Juan area is the biggest industrial center on the island. It is home to tobacco processors, breweries, refining facilities for petroleum and sugar, and distillers of rum as well as manufacturers of metal products, cement, pharmaceuticals, and clothing.

Several banks and corporations from the United States have offices or branches in the Port of San Juan.

Tourism is an important part of the Port of San Juan economy. The restored Old San Juan district attracts thousands of visitors each year who enjoy luxury hotels and fine restaurants. The Port of San Juan is not only a cargo-handling seaport. It welcomes many cruise ships each year, and the local airport is one of the busiest in the Caribbean.

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