La Fortaleza

La Fortaleza (The Fortress) is the official residence of the Governor. It is the oldest executive mansion in the New World still in continuous use. Built in 1533, it has housed over 170 governors since then.

La Fortaleza was the first structure built for defense against the Carib Indians and invaders on the island. It consisted of one tower (known as La Torre de Homenaje or Tower of Homage) and four immense thick stone walls that enclosed an interior patio. The tower had the nickname Homage Tower because the Governor, following Spanish military tradition, would go up to the top of the tower and take oaths to the King and Queen of Spain during critical moments on the island.

A few years later, the military added a second tower called the Austral Tower. During its use as a military defense structure, it only suffered capture twice. The first capture occurred in 1528 when the British Earl of Cumberland, George Clifford attacked San Juan. General Boudewijn Hendrick of the Netherlands also captured it in 1625.

In 1822 it officially became the executive mansion of the governor. It went through a reconstruction in 1846 to change its military appearance into an executive mansion. The reconstruction gave it a more palatial facade and gardens.

Over the course of its history, La Fortaleza has hosted many notable dignitaries. Among them are John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, and U.S. President Barack Obama.


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