Wednesday, July 30, 2008
It had been at least two years since I had visited El Morro with its garitas or sentry posts which overlook the ocean. There are many legends and tales associated with these sentinel posts including La Garita del Diablo, a folktale about a Spanish soldier who falls in love with a criolla maiden. Her family is very strict and didn't approve of their romance. So they secretly met until finally they decided to escape together. She went to meet him at "la garita" and they escaped together. He didn't leave anything behind and people thought he has been taken by the devil when in reality they escaped to El Yunque where they started a family. Well, at least that is what I heard when they told me the tale eons ago. In fact, I met their great great grandchildren. Just kidding. I'm ancient, but not that ancient!
Today El Morro is not quite as frightening nor mysterious. In fact it is a place no resident or tourist should miss. It has a unique history, and its rooms offer unbelievable information into those who served or were imprisoned there, including political prisoners from the 1700 to 1800's who did not believe in slavery.
Though I learn something new each time I visit, history wasn't exactly what enticed me to go. It was my desire to see the crashing waves and the deep ultramarine blue ocean just off the jutting peninsula. While overlooking the ocean, I saw seagulls hovering in the strong breeze and a pelican deligently fishing. On the ground there were lots of people enjoying the history, sitting on cannons, climbing narrow staircases, or imagining the stories of battles well fought.
Many times El Morro and the Spanish colony survived because of acts of faith or fate. One time it was General Cumberland, I believe, who actually won a battle against the Spanish soldiers, and managed to possess the island for a total of ten weeks, only to have to turn around and leave because of dysentary. Another time the Spanish were heavily outnumbered by British soldiers. The women of the town in total desperation called out to God and had the Catholic Priest lead a procession around the city walls that night. The multitude of torches held by the women appeared like a large group of soldiers to the men on the ships, and out of fear they turned their ships around and left port without shedding any blood. As a reminder of that miracle of God, they built a statue, called La Rogative up on the hill near la Puerta de San Juan. Amazing, isn't it?