San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and the capitol building, called El Capitolio, is located in Old San Juan. The idea for its construction came from the Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Rivera in 1907. Rivera was a proponent for Puerto Rican autonomy. He began planning it as early as 1911 but actual construction did not begin until 1925. The completion of construction and dedication of the building occurred in 1929. At completion, no dome existed. The addition of the dome in 1961, designed in a Neoclassical Revival style, utilized the same expensive Italian Marble used by Michelangelo.
A local architect, Rafael Carmoega, created the actual design of El Capitolio building. Its interior took shape as an artistic masterpiece through the collaboration of local artists like Jose Oliver, Jorge Rechani, Rafael Tufino and others.
El Capitolio has two main entrances, one on the north side and one on the south. Each entrance has 8 pillars and 7 doors which represent the seven senatorial districts in existence at the completion of the building. Each door has the name of the district it represents etched on its threshold. The names of these districts are San Juan, Guayama, Humacao, Arecibo, Aguadilla, Mayaguez, and Ponce.
Located in the rotunda on the main floor is a permanent ballot box. The original copy of the Constitution of Puerto Rico is also on display. The interior facade of the main floor has illustrations of different moments in Puerto Rico’s history:
- Abolition of Slavery
- Independence movement from Spain
- US/PR relationship
Beautiful red carpeting and chairs decorate the senate chambers where legislative meetings take place. Mosaics and friezes accentuate the architectural design.
El Capitolio hosts the house of representatives in one wing and the senators’ in the other wing. Regular sessions of legislature meet inside as well as all types of rallies. People are able to watch the senate through thick protective glass from the gallery above.
Admission is free and tours are conducted in both Spanish and English. There is a metal detector and security check point that all visitors must go through.