Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thursday Old Urbanism

Old Town, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Another city of Iberian origin which lent its original name specifying its use as a port to the country in which it lies, much like the featured city from two weeks ago, Porto (earlier Portugale, from the Latin Portus Cale)When founded, the name by which the city of San Juan was known was indeed Puerto Rico, Spanish for Rich Port, an appropriate name for a wealthy coastal town but one which made little sense for an entire county.  By contrast, San Juan had been the name given the island by its first European explorer -- Christopher Columbus. 

Several years after the founding of the city of Puerto Rico, the city was renamed San Juan, which resulted in confusion in distinguishing between the city and the island.  Ultimately, the naming crisis was resolved by switching the names so that henceforth the island would be called Puerto Rico and the city San Juan.   The old town of the city, pictured above, preserves a gridded street pattern that is the legacy of 16th century Renaissance-era city planning principles, as reflected in the "Laws of the Indies" which guided urban development in Spanish colonial cities throughout the New World.

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