Nearly 4 million people live in Puerto Rico, often called the “Island of Enchantment.” More than 1 million live in the greater San Juan area. Spanish, African, Indian and U.S. influences all come together in Puerto Rican culture, though there are many more defining ethnic factors. Chinese workers who built railroads throughout the island settled here afterward, and people of French descent migrated from Haiti and Louisiana. Irish, Scots and Corsicans also moved to Puerto Rico.
The Spanish spent 400 years building cities, towns, fortresses, churches and roadways. Puerto Rico became part of the United States in 1898, and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. Visitors to the commonwealth will find a mainly bilingual populous that has much in common with Americans from the continental U.S.
On a walking tour of Old San Juan it’s possible to visit the impressive remnants of the Spaniards’ fortifications to the city, like San Felipe del Morro and San Cristobal. The architecture is varied and interesting throughout this historic district. A stop at San Juan’s Museo de Arte reveals visual art spanning the periods from Spanish colonial times to the present. The museum features works by Puerto Rican artists like Antonio Martorell, Rafael Tufino and Myrna Baez. The facility also has an interactive family gallery, workshops and a five-acre sculpture garden.
Favorite island dishes include tostones (fried green plantains), mofongo fried mashed plantains and meat or fish in a sauce of garlic, olive oil, broth and tomatoes) and lechon asado (barbecued pig, a preparation that dates to the Taino Indians.)