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La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico
Site number:
Type of site: Cultural
Date: 15-19th century
Date of Inscription: 1983
Location: North America, United States of America, Puerto Rico, San Juan
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Description: To guard the city and the Bay of San Juan, a defensive structure sequence was constructed at this strategic point in the Caribbean Sea, between the 15th and 19th centuries. They characterize an exceptional demonstration of European military architecture that was tailored to the American continent’s harbour sites. --WHMNet paraphrase from the description at WHC Site, where additional information is available.
  La Fortaleza, (The Fortress) is the current official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. It was built between 1533 and 1540 to defend the harbor of San Juan. The structure is also known as Palacio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Palace). It is the oldest executive mansion in the New World. It was listed by UNESCO in 1983 as a World Heritage Site. During the 1640 reconstruction, the chapel of Santa Catalina, which originally existed outside of the walls, was demolished and was integrated to the walls of the structure. This would give rise to the name of Santa Catalina's Palace. La Fortaleza was the first defensive fortification built for the city of San Juan, and the first of a series of military structures built to protect the city which included the Fort San Felipe del Morro and the Fort San Cristóbal. The construction was authorized by Charles V as a defense against attacks from the European powers of the day and Carib Indians. Initially, the structure consisted of four walls enclosing an interior patio with a circular tower known as the Homage Tower. From the top of the tower, the governor, following military tradition, would take oaths of fidelity at critical moments to the Queen and the King of Spain. Later, a second tower named the Austral Tower was constructed. Since the 16th century, La Fortaleza has acted as the residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico, making it the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Americas. On November 27, 1822 the tradition of executive mansion was officialized. The fortress underwent a massive reconstruction in 1846 to change its military appearance into a palatial facade. La Fortaleza has been the residence of over 170 governors of Puerto Rico and has hosted various dignitaries, including President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy who stayed in La Fortaleza in 1961. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia of Spain are among the names of several heads of state who have stayed in La Fortaleza. --Wikipedia. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
Reference: 1. UNESCO World Heritage Center, Site Page.
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