San Pedro de la Roca Castle and the Military Might of Spain in Cuba

San Pedro de la Roca Castle and the Military Might of Spain in Cuba

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Top quality cigars and contagious rhythm have long been associated with the Caribbean’s largest island. Cuba, though, has also played a significant role in the Caribbean and, indeed, world history. As a result, there are many historic monuments on the island nation. One of the most remarkable of these is San Pedro de la Roca Castle, recognized as being of great historical importance by UNESCO.

The History of Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, Cuba

The castle is located not far from the historic city of Santiago de Cuba. During the colonial period (1500-1898), it was one of the most strategic sites in Spain’s extensive empire and its inhabitants became incredibly wealthy.

As Santiago was raided by both French and English pirates in the 16th and early 17th century, a small fortress had been erected on the rocky promontory at San Pedro to guard the city. In the early 1600s, the governor commissioned an Italian military engineer to design a large fortress to protect the entrance to the bay of Santiago. It was also to protect the city from both pirates and the enemies of Spain.

This massive undertaking took more than 60 years to complete since the fortifications had to be cut into the rock. Construction was also often halted because of funding issues. As a result, in 1662 English privateers were able to seize Santiago de Cuba for a period, during which time they sacked and looted the city and some of the fortifications at San Pedro were destroyed.

Military engineering to protect the city of Santiago (Glogg, P / CC BY 3.0 )

After the withdrawal of the privateers, the Spanish colonial authorities hastened to complete the fortress. In particular, new artillery platforms were constructed. The new additions helped to protect the city of Santiago from attacks in the 1690s and 1700s until the threat of pirates and privateers receded in the eighteenth century. By the early 19 th century the Spanish colonial authorities used part of the fortress as a prison for political prisoners.

During the Spanish-American war, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca was embroiled in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba in 1898, a decisive American victory. After the withdrawal of the Spanish from Cuba, the fortress was no longer garrisoned, and it fell into a state of disrepair. It was later damaged by two earthquakes but was restored in the 1960s by the government of Fidel Castro.

The Platforms and Many Layers of San Pedro de la Roca Castle

The fortress is built on a rocky head known as El Morro in the southeast of Cuba. Although the design was based on classic Renaissance military architecture principals, it was adapted to local conditions.

The castle was built on a number of levels in a geometric format. The levels are all linked by a series of stairs and the castle is a complex network of batteries and defensive strongholds .

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The labyrinth of levels within the fortress (Martin / CC BY ND 2.0 )

At the top of the castle is the bastion or citadel. At the lowest level near the shore are a fortified gun platform and a guard post. The next level consists of a gun platform from where the quarters of the gunners, a magazine that once stored gun powder , and artillery shells can be seen. Above this platform are another two platforms that once held batteries of cannons . These allowed the garrison to fire on any enemy ships that were threatening Santiago de Cuba.

The main castle is connected to two smaller forts built in the late seventeenth century. A semaphore or telegraph tower used for communication was constructed in the mid-19 th century and a lighthouse was also added at this time. Two more batteries were added just before the Spanish-American war. The site is generally recognized to be one of the best-preserved examples of Spanish Colonial military engineering in all of the Caribbean, and indeed, Latin America.

Getting to San Pedro de la Roca Castle

Santiago de Cuba is a major tourist attraction and there is plenty of accommodation near San Pedro de la Roca Castle. It is possible to hire a taxi to the fortress where admittance is charged, and a permit is needed to take photographs. Be prepared for a steep walk when visiting the old castle which offers visitors incredible views of the sea. It is also possible to walk along the walls.

Torreón de la Chorrera

The Torreón de la Chorrera (Tower of la Chorrera), or to give it its full name, Fuerte de Santa Dorotea de la Luna de la Chorrera, was completed in May 1646. The tower stands on a coral islet only a few metres from the shore and not much larger than the tower itself. The tower's purpose was to impede the entry of enemy ships into the mouth of the Almendares River. The British damaged and captured the tower when they took the city in 1762, after which it was rebuilt in its present form. Today, the tower contains a restaurant. In 1982, the Torreón was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, along with other historic sites in Old Havana, because of the city's importance in the European conquest of the New World, its fortifications, and its unique architecture. [1]

Governor Pedro Vadés (1602–08) proposed building fortifications at the mouths of the La Chorrera (Almendares) and Cojimar rivers to the west and east of Havana as protection against attacks by the English. However, the end of the threat resulted in the abandonment of the project.

Then in 1633 Captain-general Marquis de Cadereyta and Admiral Carlos de Ibarra came to Havana to inspect the state of the fortresses of La Fuerza, La Punta and El Morro. Both inspectors recommended that forts be built at the mouths of the two rivers because the locations were ideal for the landing of enemy troops and were out of range of the guns of the major fortresses. Two years later Governor Francisco Riaño Gamboa received the orders to build the towers.

However, nothing happened until 1646 when Governor Álvaro de Luna y Sarmiento (1639–47) completed the project to build the two towers due to concerns about the possibility of Dutch or Portuguese attacks. Juan Bautista Antonelli, the eldest son of the builder of Morro Castle and San Salvador de la Punta Fortress, built the towers. Earlier, in 1637, he had built the Castillo San Pedro de la Roca at Santiago de Cuba.

The original Chorrera Tower was round, like the towers on the coast of Spain that the Spanish built to repel the attacks of the Moors. It was armed with eleven guns and had a garrison of 50 men.

In early 1762 Charles III of Spain declared war on England. Consequently, on 6 June General George Keppel, Lord Albemarle, with Vice-Admiral Sir George Pocock as naval commander, arrived off Havana with a large naval force and several thousand troops. The major British thrust came to the east of Havana, near Cojimar, which was defended by the Torreón de Cojimar, which Antonelli had also designed. On 10 June the British began cannonading the fort, which held out under its commanders, Captain Luis de Aguia and Rafael de Cardenas, until it ran out of ammunition. Three days later, a British force of some 2000 men landed and captured the tower. From there they moved on to take the hill of Vedado, and the heights of Aróstegui, where later the Spanish would construct Fortalezza El Principe.

In the Battle of Havana (1762) the British captured Morro Castle, after which Havana surrendered. The British occupation of Havana lasted less than a year. The 1763 Treaty of Paris returned Havana and Manila to Spain In return Spain ceded Florida and Menorca to Great Britain and paid the Manila Ransom. Spain also received the large territory of French Louisiana as a payment for intervening in the war on the side of the French and as compensation for having lost Florida.

The Spanish rebuilt the tower as a two-storey rectangular building, some 80 by 60 feet. Its armament consisted of four larger and two smaller cannon, manned by a garrison of some 30 soldiers. A stone staircase gave access to the entrance to the tower on the second floor. A tablet over the door gives the name of the builders and the date of construction.

In 1898 the fort may again have seen action, this time during the Spanish–American War. The Spanish established a battery at La Chorrera, near the tower, using three 160mm guns salvaged from the aged unarmored cruiser Alfonso XII. This battery fired on US warships scouting the area.


About five miles from the center of Santiago de Cuba stands the most complete and best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture, Castillo Del Morro. Its official name is El Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, but locals just refer to it as “El Morro.” It’s the perfect spot for those looking to learn about Cuba pirates.


King Philip II of Spain ordered the construction of El Morro fortress to protect Spain’s richest colony and one of its most important cities, Santiago de Cuba.

Castillo Del Morro is an imposing structure that was designed by the Italian engineer, Giovanni Battista Antonelli in 1638 and finally completed in 1700. At that time European powers contested Spain’s supposed rights over the West Indies and competed for possession of the new territories. The prevailing atmosphere of lawlessness encouraged piracy and smuggling.

The characters that sailed past Castillo Dell Morro Fortress during piracy’s heyday are heroes to some, pirates to others…but interesting to all.


  • Francis Drake was active in these waters on behalf of Queen Elizabeth I of England. In 1595 he undertook his last voyage to the West Indies where he died.
  • Dutchman Piet Heyn battled the Spanish nearby and captured a small flotilla relieving the Spaniards of a small fortune.
  • Roc “The Brazilian” was actually a Dutchman who migrated to Dutch controlled Brazil. He led a mutiny and adopted the life of a pirate at which he excelled. He specialized in attacking Spanish cargo ships and was captured many times but always managed to escape. His abrupt disappearance remains a mystery.
  • Francis Nou, a Frenchman, wreaked havoc throughout the Caribbean and was perceived as brutal even among other pirates. He also disappeared without a trace.
  • Henry Morgan was a Welsh landowner who became Governor of Jamaica from where he raided colonies and attacked Spanish ships carrying precious cargo. His efforts made him wealthy and he used his money to buy sugar plantations in Jamaica.
  • Scotsman Alexander Selkirk had been a Royal Navy officer. He spent over four years on a deserted island having been marooned there by his captain. When rescued he appeared to be in good health having survived on captured goats, seafood and by maximizing the resources available to him on the island. The British public became fascinated with his story and he became a minor celebrity. Despite the opportunity to live out his life in relative comfort in London, he returned to the sea where he pursued Spanish ships in the Caribbean and died of a tropical fever in West Africa. It is said his ordeal as a castaway in the South Pacific was the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s character Robinson Crusoe.


Throughout the 1600s, Castillo Del Morro Fortress was attacked by French and English privateers and was repeatedly reinforced. In the 1700s it was damaged by major earthquakes and again repaired. By the nineteenth century, advances in the weapons industry rendered El Morro’s defenses relatively obsolete. During Cuba’s wars of Independence against Spain in the late 1800s and the Spanish-American War in 1898 Castillo Del Morro served as a prison.


Finally, in 1997 Castillo Del Morro Fortress was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The museum inside the fortress is a treasure trove of Cuba pirates era artifacts. Guides are available and the exhibits in the museums are well marked in both Spanish and English.

This is an excellent side trip from Santiago for a morning or afternoon. There are gift shops and cafeterias in the area. A private taxi from Santiago should cost you 15 CUC round trip including waiting time.

Does the idea of Cuba pirates in the Caribbean fascinate you? Would you like to have lived in Castillo Del Morro Fortress during those times?

If you are thinking of going to Cuba, I recommend you read the dos and don’ts for your trip to Cuba.

And don’t forget my new book, The Ultimate Cuba Travel Guide, available on Amazon.

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Trinidad and the Valley de los Ingenios

Trinidad is a colonial town that’s famous for its historical city center and charming ambiance. The entire town and its surrounding area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main attraction is its main square, Plaza Mayor, created in the neo-baroque style. Travelers head here to visit the Museo Romántico and Museo de Arquitectura to check out the area’s sugar history. The town’s most stunning building is arguably the Iglesia de la Santísima, a 19th-century cathedral.

About 12 kilometers away from Trinidad sits the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), which is actually comprised of three valleys: Meyer, San Luis, and Santa Rosa. This was the hub of Cuba’s sugar production in the 18th century and 19th century.

But Trinidad is not just about history, museums and Cuban culture. Nowadays Trinidad is most renowned for its music and party culture. The town has a lively and vibrant nightlife and good restaurants serving traditional cuisine. There are many open air music venues and exciting clubs including one in an underground cave. If you are looking for the best places to visit in Cuba, you ca’t miss Trinidad!

Authentic Cuba Travel® warmly invites US Educators, US Historians, US Scholars, US Sociologists, US Anthropologists and other US Citizens interested in Cuba's African and Caribbean Heritage to join this official Cuba tour to the Fire Festival from June 28 to July 5, 2022. Cuba from coast to coast! Two domestic flights included!

There are also lively processions with dancers and musicians and colourfully decorated floats that tour the city every evening. The Fire Festival takes place over 8 days in July each year.

The Fiesta del Fuego (Fire Festival) also features several traditional and popular music bands that constantly perform through the day. The event is also host to dancers and coaches who are part of the traditional Fire Fiesta procession. While these are the biggest draws of the fire festival, food stalls, children’s games and alcohol stands available during the Fiesta del Fuego (Fire Festival), make the event a grand entertainment festival.

Please, check the day-by-day itinerary below. Welcome Aboard!


US Educators, US Historians, US Scholars, US Sociologists, US Anthropologists and other African Heritage Professionals from USA interested in conducting professional research on Cuba's African and Caribbean Heritage can travel to Cuba under the provisions of the General License for Professional Research.

CATEGORY: General license for Professional Research and Professional Meetings- 31 C.F.R. § 515.564(a)(1) of the current Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations.

The travel- related transactions set forth in § 515.560(c) and such additional transactions as are directly incident to professional research are authorized, provided that:

(i) The purpose of the research directly relates to the traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise, including area of graduate-level full-time study

(ii) The traveler does not engage in recreational travel, tourist travel, travel in pursuit of a hobby, or research for personal satisfaction only and

(iii) The traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule of professional research.

We provide our US travelers with all the required documentation to ensure they are in compliance with 2020 Trump administration’s rules on Cuba travel under the US Cuba Travel category: Professional Research and Professional Meetings. US travelers can choose to depart to Cuba from any US port of their choosing.


US citizens or permanent residents genuinely interested in supporting the Cuban people can travel to Cuba from USA legally as part of this Cuba tour. Even though Cuba tourism is not possible for US citizens, this tour is a legal option to visit Cuba under the General License for the Support for the Cuban People.

CATEGORY: General License for Support for the Cuban People- 31 C.F.R. § 515.564(a) of the current Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations.

The travel-related transactions set forth in § 515.560(c) and other transactions that are intended to provide support for the Cuban people are authorized, provided that:

(1) The activities are of: (i) Recognized human rights organizations (ii) Independent organizations designed to promote a rapid, peaceful transition to democracy or (iii) Individuals and nongovernmental organizations that promote independent activity intended to strengthen civil society in Cuba and

(2) Each traveler engages in a full-time schedule of activities that: (i) Enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities and (ii) Result in meaningful interaction with individuals in Cuba.

Each person relying on the general authorization in this paragraph must retain specific records related to the authorized travel transactions. See §§ 501.601 and 501.602 of this chapter for applicable recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

We provide our US travelers with all the required documentation to ensure they are in compliance with 2020 Trump administration’s rules on Cuba travel under the US Cuba Travel category: Support for the Cuban People. US travelers can choose to depart to Cuba from any US port of their choosing.

Notice to US Universities, Colleges and Schools with African-American Studies Departments and Programs:

In January 2016, the US Government announced further enhancements to the 12 categories of authorized travel to Cuba that previously required a specific license (this is, lengthy applications to OFAC). Now travel to the Caribbean island is allowed under a general license (this is, self-completed paperwork with no application to OFAC needed).

After President Trump’s policy change on USA Cuba travel on September 24, 2020, the General License for Educational Activities remains in place. Accredited U.S. graduate or under graduate degree-granting institutions U.S. Academic Institutions and U.S. Schools can organize and sponsor an educational trip to Cuba for their students, faculty and staff under the General License for Educational Activities, provided that the trip meets OFAC guidelines and that an employee or other representative of the organization escorts the trip to make sure such guidelines are followed by all participants.

US Universities, Colleges and Schools with African-American Studies Departments and Programs can organize and sponsor a trip to Cuba for educational activities. The purpose of the Cuba travel should be for:

_ the participation in a structured educational program offered for credit as part of a course of the sponsoring institution

_ educational exchanges sponsored by Cuban or U.S. secondary schools involving secondary school students’ participation in a formal course of study or in a structured educational program offered by a secondary school or other academic institution, and led by a teacher or other secondary school official are authorized. This authorization allows for participation of a reasonable number of adult chaperones to accompany the secondary school students to Cuba.

_ attendance at non-commercial academic seminars, conferences and workshops related to Cuba sponsored or co-sponsored by U.S. academic institution.

_ non- commercial academic research related to Cuba for the purpose of obtaining a graduate or undergraduate degree

_ the participation in a formal course of study at a Cuban academic institution provided that credits will be accepted toward the student’s graduate or undergraduate degree

_ participation in a 10-week structured educational program in Cuba as part of a course offered at the U.S. institution

_ participation in a formal 10-week course of study at a Cuban academic institution, provided the formal course of study in Cuba will be accepted for credit toward the student’s undergraduate or graduate degree at the U.S. institution

We take care of all details both in North America and in Cuba, including VISA and flight arrangements to Cuba's main destinations via USA ports (Miami, Tampa, New York, Los Angeles, or other) or through third countries like Canada and Mexico. Authorized US organizations can travel through a third country subject to the same restrictions and requirements as those flying directly from USA.

At Authentic Cuba Travel®, we have been organizing such educational and cultural travel experiences from the United States of America for years with great success.

Notice to US African Heritage Studies Associations, US Museums of African American History, US African American Museums of the Arts, US Afro-American Historical and Cultural Society Museums, US Black Archives Research Centers, Black History Museum, US Centers for African American Culture, and other Organizations from USA:

US African Heritage Studies Associations, US Museums of African American History, US African American Museums of the Arts, US Afro-American Historical and Cultural Society Museums, US Black Archives Research Centers, Black History Museum, US Centers for African American Culture, and other Academic Organizations from USA can organize a trip to Cuba under the provisions of the General License for Educational Activities, the General License for Support for the Cuban People, the General License for Professional Research, the General License for Semi-Professional & Amateur International Sports Competition, the General License for Humanitarian Projects, the General License for Activities of Private Foundations or Research or Educational Institutes among others. Certain conditions are to be met to comply with OFAC General License requirements for each category of USA Cuba travel though.

The mission of your organization and the objective of your trip to Cuba determine under what general license you can travel to Cuba legally. In general, most trips should consist of a full-time schedule of activities intended to promote the exchange with the ordinary citizens of Cuba. This full-time schedule must also include educational activities that result in meaningful interaction in between U.S and Cuban nationals. Free time in excess or regular tourists' activities are not permitted.

We take care of all details both in North America and in Cuba, including VISA and flight arrangements to Cuba's main destinations via USA ports (Miami, Tampa, New York, Los Angeles, or other) or through third countries like Canada and Mexico. Authorized US organizations can travel through a third country subject to the same restrictions and requirements as those flying directly from USA.

At Authentic Cuba Travel®, we have been organizing such educational and cultural travel experiences from the United States of America for years with great success.


"When I came to Juana, I followed the coast of that isle toward the west, and found it so extensive that I thought it might be the mainland, the province of Cathay and as I found no towns nor villages on the sea-coast, except a few small settlements, where it was impossible to speak to the people, because they fled at once, I continued the said route, thinking I could not fail to see some great cities or towns and finding at the end of many leagues that nothing new appeared, and that the coast led northward, contrary to my wish, because the winter had already set in, I decided to make for the south, and as the wind also was against my proceeding, I determined not to wait there longer, and turned back to a certain harbor whence I sent two men to find out whether there was any king or large city. They explored for three days, and found countless small communities and people, without number, but with no kind of government, so they returned", wrote Columbus in 1493 in a letter to Luis de Santángel (the finance minister of Ferdinand II), in which he announced his discoveries in the previous year in the New World. He claimed Cuba (named Juana, after Juan, Prince of Asturias) for the Kingdom of Spain, and this situation will remain unchanged for 400 years, although many others have yearned the island.

In 1514, at three years after Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar founded the first Spanish settlement on the island at Baracoa, the same conquistador established Santiago de Cuba, which will become the second largest city of Cuba, position that they occupy still today. As said Germán Arciniegas in Biografía del Caribe, "for a century and a half, unlucky Spain had to withstand the attack of all the European powers", all its enemy being brothers and attacking it with cheerful camaraderie. In the second half of the 17th century, "the gang breaks up, and the Caribbean becomes a universal arena of fighting cocks", and "Spain assists to the brawls with the natural joy of a spectator that didn't pay ticket, but risking, without doubt, as the old comrades to remember of him unexpectedly, to put in his back the whole spending of the show."

Aware of this, but also of the fact that the small fortification built between 1590 and 1610 was no longer able to defend the city, Pedro de la Roca de Borja, governor of Santiago de Cuba, asked to Giovanni Battista Antonelli (a member of a Milanese family of military engineers) to build a strong defensive system. Antonelli designed in 1637 the fortress which will be called Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, but its design will be adapted to the terrain. The citadel's construction took 42 years, starting in 1638 and being completed in 1700, in a series of terraces, with four main levels and three large bulwarks for artillery.

The fact that the governor fears were justified was proved in 1662 (therefore the fortress was still in construction), when the English freebooters under the guidance of Christopher Myngs took control of Santiago. Over time the fortress has suffered several attacks, and also was damaged by a series of earthquakes, and during the 20th century it fell into decay, but it was restored during the 1960s. The fortress was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, under the name San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Santiago de Cuba, because "this intricate complex of forts, magazines, bastions and batteries is the most complete, best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture, based on Italian and Renaissance design principles."

The stamp, depicting Jose Marti (1853-1895), a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature, was issued on 1995 with the occasion of the Centennial of the War of Independence (Centenario de la guerra de independencia).

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday #126, hosted on Beth's blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy. Click on the button below to visit all the other participants.

The Letter of Columbus to Luis De Sant Angel – Historic Documents
Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca – Wikipedia
San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Santiago de Cuba – UNESCO official site
Biografia Caraibelor, by Germán Arciniegas – Editura Minerva, Bucureşti, 1978

sender: Nestor Moreno Domenech / Mauroh (direct swap)
sent from Havana (Cuba), on 26.06.2012
photo: Juank

Interesting Facts about Cuba &ndash Famous Personalities

49) The first Latin American astronaut is from Cuba

In 1980, Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez traveled to space as a member of the crew of Soyuz 38 spacecraft. He was not only the first Latin American to visit the space. He was also the first person of African descent and the first person from a country in the Western Hemisphere other than the United States to travel to Earth orbit.

Escla, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

50) Cuba has the first world chess champion born in a developing country

José Raúl Capablanca was a world chess champion from 1921 to 1997. He is widely renowned as one of the best chess players of all time. He had officially played 583 tournament chess games and lost only 35.

51) The first Latin American Olympic champion is from Cuba

Ramón Fonst won the gold medal for fencing at the Paris Olympic Games in 1900, which makes him the first Olympic champion from Latin America. He won three more gold medals in St. Louis in 1904. He is considered one of the best fencers of all time.

52) Cuba has the second most Olympic medals among all American countries

The only American country with more Olympic medals than Cuba is the United States. Cube won a total of 226 summer Olympic medals (78 gold, 68 silver, 80 bronze), which makes it the 20 th best country in the world [6].

53) Cuba is one of the best boxing countries in the world

Cuba is considered one of the best boxing countries in the world. Cuban boxers won 37 gold Olympic medals (19 silver, 17 bronze). The country also has 71 world champions.

Cannons of the Spanish Empire, 1628 - 1846

The "San Francisco"

The San Francisco

Cast in 1679 by Cubas Me Fecit in Lima, Peru, this 8 pound cannon was given the name San Francisco and bears the coat of arms of Don Baltasar de la Cueva Henriquez y Saaverdra, 24th Viceroy of Peru. In a 1837 report, the San Francisco was located at the Castillo de San Joaquin, and guarded the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. This cannon was subsequently moved to Sonoma, at the request of the Mexican Governor of Alta California. On July 20, 1846, Capt. Montgomery, commanding the USS Portsmouth, sent a military detachment to retrieve the cannon, and return it to San Francisco. This cannon is currently located near the flag pole at the main post of the Presidio.

The "San Domingo"

The San Domingo

The cannon San Domingo was cast in 1628, and bears the coat of arms of Don Diego Fernandez de Cordoba, 17th Viceroy of Peru. This cannon was cast in Lima, Peru, after enough copper was obtained from Chile.The San Domingo was one of the cannons that was successfully re-vented, after being spiked during the Bear Flag Revolt. The cannon is currently located outside of Building 2 the former Post Hospital and Presidio Army Museum.

The "San Pedro"

The San Pedro

The San Pedro is an 8 pound cannon, cast in Lima, Peru, during 1673. It was brought to San Francisco from the Spanish ordinance depot in San Blas, Mexico. The San Pedro was located at the Castillo de San Joaquin, and guarded the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. This cannon was "spiked" by Fremont's Bear Flag Revolt in 1846. The remains of the file that disabled the cannon can still be seen in the touch-hole. This cannon is currently located outside of the Officers Club, Building 50, at the Presidio.

The "Birgen de Barbaneda"

The Birgen de Barbaneda

The Birgen de Barbaneda, or Virgin of Barbaneda in English, was cast in 1693, in Lima, Peru and bears the coat of arms of Don Melchor Puertocarrero Laso de la Vega, 27th Viceroy of Peru. It was brought to the Castillo de San Joaquin in 1793, to fortify the San Francisco Bay. In 1846, the cannon was "spiked" by Fremont's men, during the Bear Flag Revolt. Later that year, Captain John B. Montgomery of the USS Portsmouth successfully re-vented the cannon, effectively restoring its firing capabilities.This cannon is currently located near the flag pole in Pershing Square at the Main Post of the Presidio.

The "San Martin"

The San Martin

The San Martin bears the coat of arms from Don Meleher de Navarra y Rocafal, 26th Viceroy of Peru. This 12-Pounder brass cannon was cast in Lima, Peru, during 1684. On July 12, 1846, Captain John B. Montgomery uncovered the San Martin, which had been buried, as a result of neglect, in the sand at the Presidio. This cannon is currently located at Fort Point National Historic Site, at the Presidio.

The Poder is an 8 pound cannon, cast in Peru during 1673. It was located at the Castillo de San Joaquin, and guarded the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. This cannon was subsequently moved to Sonoma, at the request of the Mexican Governor of Alta California. On July 20, 1846, Capt. Montgomery, commanding the USS Portsmouth, sent a military detachment to retrieve the cannon, and return it to San Francisco. This cannon is currently located outside of the Officers Club, Building 50, at the Presidio.


During the age of the great colonial empires, the European powers battled each other around the globe for political, military and commercial dominance. Nowhere were these wars more frequent or more fierce than in the waters and islands of the Caribbean Sea. The forces of Spain, France, England, Holland and other nations, not to mention innumerable pirates, fought endlessly for control of these rich and strategic territories. Because of this, the islands of the Caribbean sprouted more fortresses than any place outside of Europe. Virtually every Caribbean island now boasts at least one major fort, in varying degrees of condition. Spain was by far the greatest fortress builder in the Caribbean, their legacy including the Forteleza Ozama in the Dominican Republic, Fort San Felipe in Puerto Rico, and the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana in Cuba.


The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 on the shores of what is now the Dominican Republic signaled the beginning of Spanish Empire in the Americas. The first permanent Spanish settlement was at Santo Domingo, which for a while served for a while as the colonial capital of the New World. By 1600, all of the northern Caribbean’s major islands, Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, were under Spanish dominion, as were many of the minor ones.

Although Dutch, English and French colonies also began to pop up in the New World in the early 1500s, the Caribbean remained by and large a giant Spanish laken throughout the 16th century. In order to secure this phenomenally wealthy dominion from enemies, largely pirates and buccaneers acting on behalf of foreign powers, the Spanish constructed scores of massive fortresses in a great ring that spread around the Caribbean from Cartagena in Columbia to St. Augustine in Florida. Although they these fortifications generally did little to discourage raids on the Spanish towns, they did successfully protect the Spanish New World possessions from all-out assault.

That is, at least until the end of the 16th century. In 1588, the English navy outmaneuvered the vastly superior Spanish armada into a disastrous defeat from which Spain never recovered. With Spain’s navy largely out of the way, the Spanish colonies in the Americas were largely defenseless. In most cases, the massive fortifications did little to protect the Spanish Empire, and one by one their island colonies began to fall into enemy hands. By the year 1700, Spain had lost virtually everything except Cuba, Puerto Rico and the eastern half of Hispaniola, now the Dominican Republic.

Although severely reduced in power, Spain managed to retain these colonies for another two centuries, thanks in part to the size of the islands which made conquest by foreign powers too difficult, but also due to the more neutral role Spain played during this period. The major threat to the islands in this period were from independent pirates, and against these the great Spanish fortresses were much more formidable. They remained a pivotal part of the Spanish Empire’s military presence in the New World until Spain’s disastrous defeat at the hands of the United States during the Spanish-American War.


The Forteleza Ozama was constructed shortly after the founding of Santo Domingo and is the oldest European fortress in the Americas. Amazingly, despite its age, its relatively modest size, political importance of Santo Domingo and proximity to pirates based in Jamaica and Tortuga, the Forteleza Ozama was never successfully attacked. The main building of Forteleza Ozama is a square-tower keep built of coral rock that looks more like an ancient Roman fortress than colonial or even medieval European castle. The fort backs up against the Ozama River, and two cannons, remnants of the former battery, still face the river approaches. The Forteleza Ozama became famous in the 1500s as the jumping off point for the conquistador expeditions of Pizzaro, Cortez and others.

Fort San Felipe Del Morro is an immense, multi-level citadel built on a strategic outcropping of rock that guards the entrance to San Juan Bay. The top level of the citadel backs up against a plateau on which stands the city of San Juan. Of all of the colonial fortresses in the Americas, Fort Del Morro most resembles a true medieval European castle, and looks as if it had been built by crusaders rather than conquistadors. It now houses a museum with an excellent collection of cultural exhibits. A broad open lawn separates the citadel from the city, so that the city could not be used for cover for advancing enemies. It is now used as a public park.

The Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana, also known as La Cabana, was the largest military fortification in the Americas at the time of its completion in 1774. Built to replace the Castillo del Morro, which was damaged beyond usefulness by the British during the Seven Year’s War, La Cabana was also among the very last of the major colonial-era forts to be erected in the Caribbean. Built on high bluffs overlooking the sea, this titanic white fortress is like a traditional gunpowder-era fort on steroids. It is a such a well-built complex that it was in active service in the 1960s, when Cuban revolutionaries fortified La Cabana against potential threats from the United States. Out of tradition, a cannon is fired from the fortress walls every evening.

Fort San Felipe Del Morro is located on the westernmost tip of the City of San Juan. From June to Noevember it is open from 9:00am-5:00pm and from December to May from 9:00am-6:00pm. Admission is $3.00. As of this writing there was no visitor information available for the Forteleza Ozama or the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana. Web: (official website of Fortaleza Ozama) (official website of Fort San Felipe Del Morro) (official tourism website of Cuba).

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The Spanish easily left behind the greatest number of colonial forts in the Caribbean. In addition to the above, some of the other best surviving Spanish forts are Fort San Cristobalwhich is also located in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Castillo del Morro, which is also located in Havana. The Castillo de San Pedro de la Rocain Santiago protects the eastern end of the island of Cuba and the Castillo San Carlos Borromeo on the Isla Margarita, just off the coast of Venezuela.

MORRO CASTLE, Guardian at the Entrance of the Old City of Havana. * CASTILLO DEL MORRO, guardian a la Entrada de la Vieja Ciudad de la Habana. PHOTOS.

Morro Castle (Spanish: Castillo de Los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro), named after the three biblical Magi, is a fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay in Havana, Cuba.

The Morro fortress in Havana shares its name with Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca in Santiago de Cuba and the Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In this case, the Spanish “morro” means a rock that is very visible from the sea and therefore serves as a navigational landmark. Perched on the promontory on the opposite side of the harbor from Old Havana, it can be viewed from miles around as it dominates the port entrance. Built initially in 1589 in response to raids on Havana harbor, el Morro protected the mouth of the harbor with a chain being strung out across the water to the fort at La Punta.

The design was drawn up by the Italian engineer Battista Antonelli originally under the control of Spain, the fortress was captured by the British in 1762 and was returned to the Spanish under treaty terms a year later.

It first saw action in 1762, while under the command of Luis Vicente de Velasco e Isla. The British expedition against Cuba under Lord Albemarle landed in Cojimar to the east of Havana and attacked the fortress from its landward side. The fort fell when the British successfully mined one of its bastions. When the British handed the island back in 1763 to Spain, the fortress at La Cabaña was built to prevent this from happening again.

Inside the gates is an exhibition on the lighthouses of Cuba – El Morro once housed a school for lighthouse keepers. There was actually a watchtower here until the British blew it up during their successful siege in 1762. The Faro Castillo del Morro lighthouse was added in 1846.

The cannons around the fort are now badly rusted, but the walls are well preserved. The fort has central barracks up to four stories high. A small underwater archeology exhibition is also located here. Noteworthies are the old latrines and their chute into the sea, as are the two sets of doors and the drawbridge mechanism. The current harbor master’s office is still housed in the fortress. A plaque dedicated by the ambassador of the United Kingdom commemorates the 1762 siege, and a small memorial is located between two strong powder rooms in the northeast bastion.

A small turret at the end of the wall offers views of the sea crashing onto the rocks 20 meters below, and of the huge dry moat. The opposite side of the moat holds more modern guns and cannons, La Bateria de Velasco, and offers a sweeping view down to Cojimar.

The complex is now part of a historical park, along with the El Morro fortress, and houses several museums open to the public. Every night a cannon is fired at 9 pm, the so-called “El Cañonazo de las 9” is a leftover custom kept from colonial times signaling the closure of the city gates.


– Morro Castle can be seen in the background of John Singleton Copley’s oil painting Watson and the Shark (1778).
– Morro Castle appears in the movie The Ghost Breakers (1940), in the background as Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard enter the harbor by ship.
– The climactic scenes from The Big Boodle (1957) starring Errol Flynn were shot at Morro Castle in pre-Castro Cuba.
– The Cuban writer José Antonio Echeverría (1815-1885) published his only novel, Antonelli (1839), in the periodical La Cartera Cubana in three parts. A historical novel in the tradition of Walter Scott, Antonelli describes the love triangle among Antonelli, a Spanish soldier, and the planter’s daughter they both love. Morro Castle is the setting for many of the book’s events, including its tragic finale.


During his life, the Castro regime imprisoned the Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) at El Morro Castle for criticism of the government. The film version of Arenas’s autobiography, Before Night Falls (2000), starring Javier Bardem, features scenes set in El Morro Castle prison. (A fortress in Mexico City doubled for the prison since the filmmakers were not allowed to film in Cuba.)



El Castillo del Morro (Castillo de Los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro), que lleva el nombre de los tres magos bíblicos, es una fortaleza que custodia la entrada a la bahía de La Habana en La Habana, Cuba.

La fortaleza del Morro en La Habana comparte su nombre con el Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca en Santiago de Cuba y el Castillo de San Felipe del Morro en San Juan, Puerto Rico. En este caso, el “morro” español significa una roca que es muy visible desde el mar y por lo tanto sirve como un punto de referencia para la navegación. Encaramado en el promontorio en el lado opuesto del puerto de La Habana Vieja, se puede ver desde millas a la redonda ya que domina la entrada del puerto. Construido inicialmente en 1589 en respuesta a las redadas en el puerto de La Habana, el Morro protegió la boca del puerto con una cadena tendida sobre el agua hasta el fuerte de La Punta.


El diseño fue realizado por el ingeniero italiano Battista Antonelli originalmente bajo el control de España, la fortaleza fue capturada por los británicos en 1762 y fue devuelta a los españoles en virtud de un tratado un año después.

Entró en acción por primera vez en 1762, bajo el mando de Luis Vicente de Velasco e Isla. La expedición británica contra Cuba bajo el mando de Lord Albemarle aterrizó en Cojimar al este de La Habana y atacó la fortaleza desde su lado terrestre. El fuerte cayó cuando los británicos minaron con éxito uno de sus bastiones. Cuando los británicos devolvieron la isla en 1763 a España, se construyó la fortaleza de La Cabaña para evitar que esto volviera a suceder.

Dentro de las puertas hay una exposición sobre los faros de Cuba: El Morro albergó una vez una escuela para fareros. En realidad, hubo una torre de vigilancia aquí hasta que los británicos la volaron durante su exitoso asedio en 1762. El faro Castillo del Morro fue agregado en 1846.

Los cañones alrededor del fuerte ahora están muy oxidados, pero las paredes están bien conservadas. El fuerte tiene cuarteles centrales de hasta cuatro pisos de altura. Aquí también se encuentra una pequeña exposición de arqueología subacuática. Destacan las antiguas letrinas y su rampa al mar, así como los dos juegos de puertas y el mecanismo del puente levadizo. La oficina del actual capitán del puerto todavía se encuentra en la fortaleza. Una placa dedicada por el embajador del Reino Unido conmemora el asedio de 1762, y un pequeño monumento se encuentra entre dos fuertes salas de polvo en el bastión noreste.

Una pequeña torreta al final de la pared ofrece vistas del mar chocando contra las rocas 20 metros más abajo y del enorme foso seco. El lado opuesto del foso tiene armas y cañones más modernos, La Batería de Velasco, y ofrece una vista panorámica de Cojimar.

El complejo ahora es parte de un parque histórico, junto con la fortaleza de El Morro, y alberga varios museos abiertos al público. Cada noche se dispara un cañón a las 9 de la noche, el llamado “El Cañonazo de las 9” es una costumbre remanente guardada de la época colonial que señala el cierre de las puertas de la ciudad.


– El castillo de Morro se puede ver en el fondo de la pintura al óleo de John Singleton Copley Watson and the Shark (1778).
– Morro Castle aparece en la película The Ghost Breakers (1940), en el fondo cuando Bob Hope y Paulette Goddard entran al puerto en barco.
– Las escenas culminantes de The Big Boodle (1957), protagonizada por Errol Flynn, se rodaron en el castillo de Morro en la Cuba anterior a Castro.
– El escritor cubano José Antonio Echeverría (1815-1885) publicó su única novela, Antonelli (1839), en el periódico La Cartera Cubana en tres partes. Una novela histórica en la tradición de Walter Scott, Antonelli describe el triángulo amoroso entre Antonelli, un soldado español, y la hija del plantador que ambos aman. Morro Castle es el escenario de muchos de los eventos del libro, incluido su trágico final.


Durante su vida, el régimen de Castro encarceló al poeta y novelista cubano Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990) en el Castillo de El Morro por críticas al gobierno. La versión cinematográfica de la autobiografía de Arenas, Antes que anochezca (2000), protagonizada por Javier Bardem, presenta escenas ambientadas en la prisión del Castillo de El Morro. (Una fortaleza en la Ciudad de México se duplicó para la prisión ya que a los cineastas no se les permitió filmar en Cuba).

Watch the video: San Pedro de la Roca Castle, Santiago de Cuba UNESCONHK (November 2022).

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