San Jose Plaza

San Jose Plaza is located in Old San Juan at the cross-street of San Sebastian Street (Calle San Sebastian) and Cristo Street (Calle del Cristo) with the San Jose Church located on the northern side of the plaza. The plaza contains the Ponce de Leon Statue as well as numerous park benches. There are also some trees that provide shade from the sun. Otherwise, there isn't much else in the square itself, but there are numerous other Puerto Rico Tourist Attractions nearby as well as several restaurants and cafes around the plaza.

Ponce de Leon Statue

Ponce de Leon Statue

There is a bronze statue of Ponce de Leon located in the center of the square to honor the first Governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de Leon. The statue was forged in 1882 in New York city from the cannons from a failed British attack on the city of San Juan in 1797.

Ponce de Leon was an explorer from Spain who arrived on the island of Puerto Rico as part of the second voyage to the new world by Christopher Columbus, but ended up settling in Hispaniola. He initially was appointed to be the Governor of a province of Hispaniola by Nicolas de Ovando, the then Governor of Hispaniola. Several years later he traveled to what is now Old San Juan and set up a settlement. He was eventually appointed as the first official Governor of what is now Puerto Rico by the King of Spain, King Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1509.

Led by Ponce de Leon, the Spanish enslaved the local Tainos as well as crushed a rebellion several years later. However, by 1512, politics as well as the prospect of new worlds to explore led Ponce de Leon to leave Puerto Rico to eventually find and explore Florida.

Pablo Casals Museum

Also located along the northern edge of the plaza is the Pablo Casals Museum (Museo Pablo Casals). Pablo Casals was a famous Spanish cellist and symphony conductor. In 1956, he started a festival to celebrate classical music in San Juan called the Casals Festival. Later, in 1958 he formed the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, and in 1959, he set up the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. He died in the city of San Juan in 1973 and was buried in the Puerto Rico National Cemetery in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.