Old San Juan

In a new article in The New York Times by Paul Schneider, the fun and excitement of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is examined. The history of the area is also talked about, and it’s interesting to see the parallels. Here’s a sample from the piece.

The island, which the locals called Boriquen, had been previously discovered and named San Juan by Columbus, whose physician described it glowingly, especially the houses with their “beautiful gardens, as if they were vineyards or orchards of orange or citron trees.” But Ponce de León, whom one historian described as “a bastard son of the best-known family in Seville,” wasn’t much interested in fruit. “We came to serve God,” as one of his generation of conquistadors famously said, “and also to get rich.”

Today, Old San Juan is a place of narrow cobbled streets and blocks of well-preserved colonial architecture where you can glimpse a microcosmic vision of the entire post-Columbian history of the Americas, from the essentially medieval mayhem of the early European invasion to the madcap Nuyorican partying of the 21st century. Though it’s not in exactly the same location as Ponce de León’s original settlement, that hardly matters: it is the restaurant-, nightclub- and museum-packed heart of what is arguably the most vibrant city in the Caribbean, not to mention the most exotic urban setting Americans can get to these days without a passport.

Having recently emerged from a long personal obsession with the Spanish explorers who followed Ponce de León to North America, a quest that resulted in my most recent book, I took my family last winter to the city. Like almost all visitors, we started at El Morro, the great fortress with its cannons pointing out to sea. It was Sunday midmorning when we walked across its great lawn toward the battlements, and it seemed as though all the residents of the city had gathered on the sunny hillside to picnic and fly kites of all shapes and sizes: there were dragons, ships of the line, bats and Spidermen, all dipping and diving in the trade winds and attached by long strings to smiling children.

Read the rest of the article at NYtimes.com