La Fortaleza (The Fortress) is the current official residence of the
Governor of Puerto Rico. It was built between 1533 and 1540 to defend
the harbor of San Juan. The structure is also known as Palacio de
Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina's Palace). It is the oldest executive
mansion in continuous use in the New World. It was listed by
1983 as part of the
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site "
La Fortaleza and San Juan
National Historic Site".
During the 1640 reconstruction, the chapel of Santa Catalina, which
originally existed outside the walls, was demolished and was
integrated to the walls of the structure, resulting in the alternate
name Santa Catalina's Palace.
1 The structure
3 In literature
4 See also
6 External links
La Fortaleza was the first defensive fortification built for the city
of San Juan, and the first of a series of military structures built to
protect the city which included the
Fort San Felipe del Morro
Fort San Felipe del Morro and the
Fort San Cristóbal. The construction was authorized by Charles V,
Holy Roman Emperor as a defense against attacks from
Island Caribs and
the European powers of the time. Initially, the structure consisted of
four walls enclosing an interior patio with a circular tower known as
the Homage Tower. From the top of the tower, the governor, following
military tradition, would take oaths of fidelity at critical moments
to the King and Queen of Spain. Later, a second tower named the
Austral Tower was constructed.
At present, the complex consists of a few attached buildings with
formal living quarters in the second floor, and private quarters in
the third. It overlooks the high city walls that front the bay, and
within the north perimeter of the house are sheltered gardens and a
La Fortaleza, circa 1903
Front entrance of La Fortaleza
Since the 16th century,
La Fortaleza has acted as the residence of the
Governor of Puerto Rico, making it the oldest executive mansion in
continuous use in the Americas. On November 27, 1822, its
traditional status as the executive mansion was made official. The
fortress underwent a massive reconstruction in 1846 to change its
military appearance into a palatial facade.
La Fortaleza has been the
residence of more than 170 governors of
Puerto Rico and has hosted
various dignitaries, including President
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy and his wife
Jacqueline Kennedy who stayed in
La Fortaleza in 1961. King Juan
Spain and Queen
Juliana of the Netherlands
Juliana of the Netherlands are among several
heads of state who have stayed in La Fortaleza. In June 2011, U.S.
Barack Obama visited the mansion during a brief trip to the
island marking the first visit of an in-office US President to the
Fortaleza as well as the Island on official business since Kennedy, 50
years previously to that date.
King Felipe VI
King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of
Spain also visited
La Fortaleza in 2016.
La Fortaleza has been captured twice by invaders:
1598, George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, attacked San Juan.
1625, General Boudewijn Hendrick (Balduino Enrico) of the Netherlands
invaded the city and established himself at La Fortaleza. During the
Dutch retreat, the fortress and the city were set ablaze.
According to tradition, in 1898, just before the
United States invaded
Puerto Rico during the Spanish–American War, the last Spanish
governor of the island, Ricardo De Ortega, struck a longcase clock in
La Fortaleza with his sword, stopping the clock and marking the time
Spain lost control over Puerto Rico.
The bodies of two Nationalists lie in front of La Fortaleza
On October 30, 1950, there was an attempt by a few nationalists to
La Fortaleza in what is known as the San Juan Nationalist
revolt, intending to attack then-governor Luis Muñoz Marín. The
5-minute shootout resulted in four Nationalists dead: Domingo Hiraldo
Resto, Carlos Hiraldo Resto, Manuel Torres Medina and Raímundo Díaz
Pacheco. Three of the guards of the building, among them Lorenzo
Ramos, were seriously injured.
On October 9, 1960,
La Fortaleza was designated a United States
National Historic Landmark.
In 1983, La Fortaleza, along with the San Juan National Historic Site,
was declared a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
On May 26, 2004, a man armed with a knife entered the mansion's
mailroom located just outside the palace gates and took a receptionist
hostage. The 2½ hour stand-off ended after Governor Sila María
Calderón entered the building and listened as the hostage-taker read
In 2011, Puerto Rican author
Giannina Braschi wrote the dramatic novel
United States of Banana, featuring climatic scenes of revolution at La
Puerto Rico portal
Puerto Rico/Did you know-Puerto Rico? portal
United States National Historic Landmarks in United States
commonwealths and territories, associated states, and foreign states
National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places listings in metropolitan San
Juan, Puerto Rico
Government of Puerto Rico. Executive Mansion: Santa Catalina's Palace.
San Juan, Puerto Rico. (in Spanish)
World Heritage Committee. Report of 7th Session, Florence 1983. Paris:
UNESCO's Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural
and Natural Heritage. January 1984.
^ a b "La Fortaleza".
National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark summary listing.
National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
National Park Service
National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information
System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park
^ McKithan, Cecil N. (August 1981). "National Register of Historic
Places Inventory-Nomination: La Fortaleza" (PDF). National Park
Service. and Accompanying photos and diagrams, undated
Wikimedia Commons has media related to La Fortaleza.
Puerto Rico - Executive Mansion: Santa Catalina's Palace
UNESCO - World Heritage Center:
La Fortaleza Historic Site Information
Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. PR-54, "La
Fortaleza, Calle Fortaleza, San Juan, San Juan Municipio, PR"
United States governors' residences
† - No official residence
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La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site