San Juan Puerto Rico: Castillo San Felipe del Morro

photo of El Morro

The beautiful island of Puerto Rico

Photography by Gary Wonning

El Morro Fort, or officially Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, stands guard at the entrance to San Juan harbor as a reminder of a by-gone era when invading countries would attempt sea attacks to take this prized city and harbor.

El Morro Lookout

This beautiful 6-level fort was named in honor of Spain’s King Philip II. The Fort wasn’t initially built as the huge structure that you see today. It has gone through many enlargements and modifications, from the time it was first constructed by Spain through the time that it was occupied by the US Army.

Sunset at El Morro

The garitas, or sentry boxes, are located all around the outer walls of the fort. There are a number of them that you can go into. These garitas have become a cultural symbol of Puerto Rico – you will see their images on many things, from license plates to shot glasses to tee shirts. These make wonderful pictures.


In 1493, Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) “discovered” Puerto Rico and claimed it for Spain. A little known fact is that Columbus called the whole island San Juan, in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Puerto Rico (puerto = “port” and rico = “rich”) was the name given to what is known today as the Old San Juan area. It was only later that the names were reversed and the whole island became known as Puerto Rico.

Sunset San Juan

The San Juan harbor is naturally deep and safe, and Puerto Rico is in a strategic location, so it seemed that everyone wanted to call San Juan their own. After Spain claimed the island and started colonizing it, many pirates and privateers tried to invade to get the island and some of Spain’s riches! So Spain always had to fight to keep claim to the island.

After the original fort Fortaleza (now the Governor’s mansion) was deemed to be inadequate protection for the harbor, it was decided that a fort was needed in a better location. So they built a small structure at the north-west tip of Old San Juan, at the entrance to the harbor, on the current site of El Morro. Built between 1539-1540, it was a small fort that held a few men and only 4 cannons.


Growing up on a dairy farm in southeastern Indiana, Gary traveled very little until midlife, when the opportunity became available to him.

Grabbing his camera and a bag full of equipment, he began his vision quest traveling to most areas of the United States and several countries abroad.

Along the way he collected several thousand photographs that he wants to share with everyone.

Gary decided the best way to accomplish his goal was to publish photo documentaries on the various areas of the world he has visited.

What will follow will be several photography books, who knows how many will wind up in his collection.

To contact Gary:


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