(Disclaimer: I would NOT advise anyone to attempt to gain access to this building on their own. I was given permission to enter by the owner. Therefore, use your better judgement. This article is not intended to encourage or support the defacing of and/or breaking & entering into this property. - Lena del Sol Langaigne)
Walking around Old San Juan last month was a little difficult for me to say the least. It almost seems as though there's an ever present mixture of both progress and decay, but on this day, the latter was what seemed to be in the lead. I noticed now more than ever, businesses are vanishing at a rapid fire rate. More than a few places that I have frequented for years and as recently as a mere eight months ago are now out of business. You'd never know it though, as the tourists come to la isla in droves. The tourist invasion in Old San Juan envies that of New York City and given the current economic conditions, this is always a good thing nonetheless.
In recent years, a particular door located on Calle San Jose in Old San Juan has become one of the many staple places in the area that tourists flock to for their quinessential "Puerto Rico vacation" shot. The door is so popular, it served as the inspiration behind one of my most popular paintings titled, "Bonita Bandera".
The door itself is about 10ft tall, beautifully decayed and painted with the Puerto Rican flag. Despite being known amongst friends and family as having an adventurous spirit, I must say, I was very hesitant about exploring inside. BUT, after speaking with the owner and getting permission to get into the building, I was able to capture these intriguing images...
If you've never been to Old San Juan, here's some context; it's small, consisting of only 7 blocks laid out as a grid. Comparable in size to Chinatown in New York City. However, I think it's fascinating to note, this particular building was built in 1700. Yes, only 315 years ago. Puerto Rico was one of Spain's longest held colonies, or perhaps the longest. This is obvious due to the distinct Spanish colonial architecture that's prevalent in Old San Juan, including this particular structure at 51 or 52 (I'm not sure which one) Calle San Jose.
The building itself has been uninhabited in so long, there's now what looks like a small forest growing inside of it, complete with trees, various sorts of vegetation and other foliage. A number of tires have been stacked on top of one another and of course, in typical Viejo SJ fashion, there were pigeons and cats galore. What I found most interesting is the large tree growing inside -- a stark indication of how many decades the building has been uninhabited. I stopped shooting when I heard things fluttering and scurrying around, complete with shadows moving about that I saw with my peripheral vision. Oddly enough, the house alongside the building is currently for sale and listed at a cool 388K, interested? Check out the listing here.
While I don't feel particularly 'connected' to Old San Juan as I do my beautiful Luquillo or El Yunque, I do love roaming, exploring and venturing into previously unexplored places, plus I have a deep appreciation for the integral role Old San Juan plays in Puerto Rican history. Stay up to date on more stories, original photography and ART celebrating Puerto Rico and its culture, ecology and history by joining my mailing list here.
Interested in visiting this infamous door in person? The exact location is on the map below!
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