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San Juan History, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico - History: Target of foreign powers in earlier times

San Juan, also known as “La Ciudad Amurallada”, occupies a land of 122 square kilometer and houses 442,447 inhabitants. The city is positioned in the Northern Coastal Plains and lying under the Karsts zone to the north of Caguas and Aguas Buenas, east of Bayamon and west of Carolina.

Juan Ponce de León founded the original settlement Caparra in 1508. This settlement was a year later moved to Puerto Rico, as it showed similarity in geographical features to Gran Canaria Island of Canary Islands. In 1521, newer settlement received its name, San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico, honoring John the Baptist. The name was given based on the tradition for christening the region with both formal name and the one given by Christopher Columbus.

Ambiguous usage of Puerto Rico and San Juan Bautista for referring the city and island led to a turnaround in practical usage by many inhabitants. In the 1740s, city name (Puerto Rico) became that for the entire island, whereas Island name (San Juan Bautista) was given to the city.

Military ships and merchants, who came from Spain, utilized San Juan as their first stopover in Americas. Because of its importance for the Caribbean, a fortification network was built for protecting transports of gold & silver from New World to the European Nations. For its rich transports, the city became the foreign powers target of those times.

San Juan witnessed attacks from Sir Francis Drake’s led English in 1595. George Clifford, who was the Earl of Cumberland, also attacked the city in 1598. Artillery from El Morro, a fort in San Juan, repelled Drake, whereas Clifford managed landing his troops and seized the city. Following a period of occupation by British, Clifford had to abandon the siege, as his troop started suffering from sickness and exhaustion. In 1625, Dutch forces, which were led by Boudewijn Hendricksz, sacked the city. However, El Morro withstood their assault and it wasn’t taken. English, under Sir Ralph Abercromby, came back to San Juan in 1797, during French Revolution. However, his troops were forced to withdraw, as Puerto Rican defense proved to be more resilient.

Various circumstances and events, which included liberalized commerce with Spain, the island was opened to all immigrants. It occurred due to 1815’s Royal Decree of Graces and colonial revolutions. This gateway to immigrant led to an overall expansion of San Juan along with other settlements in Puerto Rico during the late eighteenth & early 19th century and laid the platform of what the city is today.

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