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La Princesa Promenade

paseo-de-la-princesa

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La Princesa” Prom­e­nade, or “Paseo de la Princesa” as the locals call it, is a beau­ti­ful walk­way that starts west of the Banco Pop­u­lar build­ing and ends next to San Juan Bay with the beau­ti­ful “Raíces” fountain.

The “Paseo de la Princesa” has existed since colo­nial times but the one that you see today was rebuilt in 1992 to com­mem­o­rate the 500th anniver­sary of the dis­cov­ery of Amer­ica.  The event was high­lighted by the Colum­bus Regatta, which brought the world’s largest tall ships to the port of San Juan.

Many of the city’s build­ings, mon­u­ments and squares were refur­bished or rebuilt for that occasion.

As you walk down “Paseo de la Princesa” you will be bor­der­ing the city wall.  Con­struc­tion of the San Juan city walls started in 1634.  By 1650 the walls pro­tected the north, west and south sides of the city, while a half-built fort “San Cristóbal” pro­tected the east­ern side from land attacks.

The walls aver­age a height of 42 feet.  Thick­ness goes from 18 feet at the top to 40 feet at the bot­tom.  They are made of solid sand­stone blocks, held together with mor­tar, lime­stone sand and water.  How­ever, in order to resist the impact of a 24-pound canon ball trav­el­ing at high veloc­ity, the walls were con­structed fol­low­ing a “sand­wich” design, where the exte­rior and inte­rior lay­ers of the wall are made of solid sand­stone, and the cen­ter is filled with impact absorb­ing rub­ble­work. If a canon ball man­aged to pierce the outer layer, the energy-absorbing core would stop the projectile.

You will also notice that the prom­e­nade is lined with gar­dens and stat­ues along the base of the city walls.  One par­tic­u­larly inter­est­ing statue is ded­i­cated to Felisa Rincón de Gau­tier, bet­ter known as “Doña Fela” who was the first woman to hold the office of mayor of an impor­tant city in the west­ern hemi­sphere, and served for a period of 22 years from 1946 to 1968.

Doña Fela is best remem­bered by the “San­juaneros” for bring­ing a plane­load of snow for the city’s dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren to play in dur­ing Christ­mas sea­son.  But her many achieve­ments earned her awards, com­men­da­tions and degrees from most of the world’s lead­ing coun­tries.  In 1954 she was awarded the dis­tinc­tion of “Woman of the Amer­i­cas” by the Union of Amer­i­can Women of New York for her many con­tri­bu­tions to the West­ern Hemi­sphere.  The statue depicts “Doña Fela” in her tra­di­tional attire, which always included a wig and Span­ish fan from here exten­sive collection.

Many of “Doña Fela’s” belong­ings can be seen at the “Felisa Rincón de Gau­tier” Museum located at the cor­ner “Caleta de San Juan” and “Clara Lair” streets, right next to the Gate of San Juan.  You’’ll be walk­ing right past it in a cou­ple of min­utes if you con­tinue this walk all the way through San Juan Gate.

After you pass the stat­ues, look closely near the base of the city wall and you’ll see the sealed off entrances to many tun­nels.  Leg­end has it, that many of these tun­nels run under the city, link­ing many of its fortifications.

Right before you reach the Puerto Rico Tourism Depart­ment you will see a gate on your right and a “Gazebo” near the base of the city wall.  If you look care­fully over the city wall you will see a very small build­ing painted in yel­low.  This was —for many years—  the world’s small­est apart­ment, accord­ing to the Gui­ness Book of World Records.

 
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