Friends suggested that if I was able to take any time off from the North American School of Internet Governance meeting, and ICANN 61 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I should try and visit Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan). So, on a warm, sunny March afternoon I set about exploring the old part of the city, which was a fair walk from the Convention Centre!
San Juan was founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century, around a fine natural harbour, and until the 19th century almost all of the settlement was contained within the impressive walls and fortifications of the city. However, by the late-1940s the physical and social fabric of the old city was in a state of disrepair, with buildings decaying and prostitution widespread. There was strong pressure to demolish much of the old fabric, and construct new buildings with modern architectural designs. Instead, thanks largely to local activism, especially by the anthropologist Ricardo Alegria, it was agreed to remodel the old city using traditional Spanish motifs and design elements. In 1949 the San Juan Historic National Site was established, and this became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It is now a lively place with numerous restaurants, shops and historic sites, and I hope that the pictures below capture something of the bright colours, impressive situation, and considerable diversity of Old San Juan. Thanks so much to everyone who suggested I should visit it!