Dr. Jorge Lizardi, professor of History of Architecture at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, has been leading a series of guided tours named “San Juan Oculto” [Hidden San Juan]. The next San Juan Oculto Tour will begin on Saturday, February 13, at 9:00am, departing from the corner of the La Puntilla Parking Lot.
Some of the highlights of the tour will explain the 19th century “graffiti” on the Puerta de San Juan [San Juan Gate]—the entrance to the once completely walled city that became an impregnable fortress in the 17th century; the reason for the shape of the windows of the former insane asylum [Antiguo Manicomio Insular], which is now the School of Plastic Arts; the enigma of the only circular chapel on the island, located at the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery; and 16th century frescos that have been uncovered at the Church of Saint Joseph [Iglesia San José]. These are only a few of the fascinating discoveries the attendees will enjoy on their two-hour walking tour of Old San Juan. As Lizardi explains, “San Juan is like a territory filled with historic experiences, one after another.”
These readings of the historical center of Puerto Rico’s capital will also generate discussions that have been pending. With the educational tours, Lizardi hopes to show the public an alternative to typical urban sites in Puerto Rico, where driving has been rendered a necessity, to remind them of walkable spaces where architectural gems must be preserved.
From its inception, the project presents the concept of knowledge as a tool for social change through the discourse followed on the guided trajectories of San Juan Oculto. So far, very few people question why a city or an architectural project is built a certain way. Perhaps, in time, a better-informed public “will demand better and more sustainable urban surroundings,” rather than accept planning that comes from external models, “in order to build a better city, country, and world.”
San Juan Oculto developed from a research project of the UPR’s School of Architecture and the Interdisciplinary Center for Urbanism, Environmental Design, and Development [Centro Interdisciplinario de Urbanismo, Diseño Ambiental y Desarrollo (CIUDAD)] to benefit the Fundación San Martín de Porres. A $20 donation per person will contribute to the foundation’s agricultural cooperatives in communities throughout the Caribbean. Since spaces are limited, interested parties should reserve by calling (787) 748-7248.
For San Juan Oculto map, see http://www.primerahora.com/XStatic/primerahora/docs/espanol/100203mapasj.pdf