traveling latin america
Travel and tourism throughout Latin America. How San Juan and Puerto Rico Got Their Names
The final version of Puerto Rico’s coat of arms was signed into usage in 1976, but the original dates back to the year 1511. In addition to several references to Ferdinand and Ysabel, then rulers of Spain, the coat of arms shows a lamb bearing a flag, symbols of St. John the Baptist (San Juan). At the bottom of the coat of arms a latin motto reads, “Joannes Est Nomem Ejus,” or “Thy name is Juan.”
coat of arms

When Columbus first landed on Puerto Rico in 1493 and claimed it for Spain, he named the island San Juan, in honor of Ferdinand and Ysabel’s son, Juan. Sixteen years later Ponce de Leon came across a beautiful bay on the island that he named Puerto Rico. There the island’s capital city was established, a couple of miles inland. Originally named Caparra, two years later it was renamed Ciudad de Puerto Rico.

The settlers were quickly dissatisfied with the city. The location was hot and swarming with mosquitos, and merchandise arriving at the port had to take a costly journey through dense jungle over a muddy road to get to the city.

At the urging of the citizens, permission to move the city was granted in 1519 and in 1521 the capital was relocated to an island in the bay. The city was renamed San Juan, and the island was given the name it bears today, Puerto Rico.

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