Johnny Depp delayed our dinner on our last night in Puerto Rico. Well, not the actor as much as a night shoot for his “”Rum Diary“” movie in old San Juan. It’s based on a book that Hunter S. Thompson wrote about his time working for a small paper in San Juan in the late 1950s. For the shoot, the streets were lined with old cars, gorgeous things. Steering clear of the roped off section of street, I took a few pictures before my husband and I headed off to dinner.
It was Charles V, the grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, who okayed construction of this fort in 1539. Puerto Rico was a key jumping off point for transporting silver and gold and other goods from the New World to Spain, and that made it quite a target. The English attacked in 1595 and 1598, and the Dutch in 1625. In 1765, the Spanish crown sent Alejandro O’Reilly to beef up the island’s defenses. (O’Reilly had earlier served in Cuba and later went on to serve as governor of Louisiana. That Irishman got to some interesting places. To the right is his portrait hanging on a wall at El Morro.)
Short Internet histories of the fort jump from the O’Reilly era to 1898, when US Navy warships attacked. Within months, Puerto Rico became a United States territory in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. In 1915, an armed German submarine tried to force its way out of San Juan’s waters to deliver supplies to German submarines in the Atlantic. Soldiers at El Morro fired shots, which now are considered to have been the first fired by the United States in World War I.
There’s still a lot of shooting going around at El Morro and in the streets of Old San Juan — now with cameras. Lined with colonial homes, the streets of old San Juan rise up sharply. There are pleasant plazas and some interesting statues. Lots to snap away at.