History of El Morro

The history of El Morro, or the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, as it is also known, sees construction of the sturdy fort beginning in 1539 under the authorization of King Charles V of Spain. The purpose of the fort was two-fold: It would serve to defend the Puerto Rican port of San Juan and to control entry to this same port. The original structure was completed in 1589, though the El Morro that you see today took more than 200 years to finish.

The Spanish built several forts throughout the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though some were not fully completed until the 1700s or even 1800s. One of these forts is the Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Other similar examples can be found in Cuba, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. These forts helped protect the Spanish New World empire and are significant historical relics. In relation to El Morro, it successfully repelled various attacks, including one that was led by Sir Francis Drake in 1595. It was only defeated once during a 1598 land attack by the Earl of Cumberland. This capture was short lived, however, thanks largely to civilian resistance and a dysentery epidemic.

There are plenty of interesting facts to highlight in relation to the history of El Morro. United States naval forces attacked the fort several times during the Spanish-American War, for example, and one of these attacks effectively ended the classical age of naval warfare in the Caribbean region. This major attack is known as the Bombardment of San Juan. It occurred on May 12, 1898. Not long thereafter, Spain ceded ownership of several island territories, including Puerto Rico and Cuba.

As for other interesting facts about El Morro, it was part of a sizeable U.S. Army post between the years of 1898 and 1961. After this, the fort was overtaken by the U.S. National Park Service and became part of the San Juan National Historic Site. In 1983, the United Nations declared El Morro a World Heritage Site, and today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Puerto Rico.

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