El Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, more popularly known as El Morro Fort, has been identified by the United Nations as a Unesco World Heritage Site. This review of El Morro Fort will present this must-see tourist destination from a historical and cultural perspective.
Strong and Mighty
El Morro (“The Promontory”) is located at 501 Norzagaray Street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is the largest Spanish-erected fortification that exists in American territory up to the present.
Initially constructed in 1634, it took more or less 150 years to finish, and there was a time when it served its purpose of magnificently repelling the attacks of invaders who tried to wrest control of the island of Puerto Rico from Spanish dominion.
Several centuries ago, Spain, Portugal, and England were the most aggressive and fearless as far as setting out for distant shores and colonizing them was concerned. It didn’t matter if someone was already in control of a land that they wanted. They’d just do their best to defeat those in power, which is the reason that strong and mighty structures with battlements, like El Morro Fort, were constructed.
El Morro has been attacked numerous times from the sea, but had never been defeated. Aside from rival colonizers, the fort was also attacked repeatedly by pirates whose efforts failed too. It took a land attack in 1598 by the Earl of Cumberland and his soldiers to capture the fortress. They held it for six months, but had to relinquish control after the Earl got sick.
The Dutch also attacked, to no avail. The British were persistent in attacking, but also failed.
However, in 1898, the US shelled El Morro repeatedly during the Spanish – American War, and ownership was eventually acquired by the US forces. They repaired the fort and built the lighthouse that stands up to this day.
El Morro in the Present
Any review of El Morro Fort will not be complete without a rundown of interesting things that can be done when touring it:
• There are several places in the Fort that are great for exploring and taking photos. These include the dungeons, passageways, barracks, and storerooms.
In the Main Plaza, there’s the parade grounds for the troops. The rooms around the plaza were used either as barracks, prison cells, storage areas for supplies, as well as weaponry.
In the Upper Level, you have the Garitas or sentry boxes, where soldiers of long ago would watch out for approaching invaders before sounding the alarm. The lighthouse is also on the upper level.
In the Lower Level, there are more Garitas, as well as the most powerful cannon battery used to repel attackers’ ships.
• You can also watch a short video about the history of El Morro and the battles it faced in the olden days.
• You can fly kites! There’s a wide green space that used to be a golf course. It’s now used for picnics and kite flying.