Cuartel de Ballaja
San Juan is one of the most historic cities in Puerto Rico, offering visitors a variety of attractions and activities. Amidst its numerous buildings that form a significant part of the heritage of the country is the Cuartel de Ballaja, or Ballaja Barracks. This breathtaking monument to the past has served numerous purposes and still plays a vital role as a home to the Museo de Las Americas. Visiting this beautiful attraction will give tourists valuable insight into the history of the building and the culture of Puerto Rico.
The Cuartel de Ballaja is a massive structure that covers an area of over seven thousand square meters. It is also a magnificent example of Spanish architecture, with construction starting in the year 1854 and completed in 1864. Throughout the 1800s, the Cuartel de Ballaja was used by the families and members of the Spanish armed forces as a barracks, and it was large enough to comfortably house a thousand people. In 1881 a chapel was added to the complex, a finishing touch to the building that boasts stables, warehouses, a plaza, dining room areas, prison, reservoir and kitchens. Beautiful balconies and extravagant archways add to the beauty of the structure.
During 1898, a part of the barracks was damaged during a bomb raid, but once the war had come to an end, the U.S. Infantry occupied the Cuartel de Ballaja until the year 1939. The barracks also assisted the war effort when World War II broke out. It was converted into a military hospital, renaming it the Rodriguez General Hospital. Cuartel de Ballaja was transferred back to the Government of Puerto Rico in 1979, with restoration work taking place between 1990 and 1993. Today, the building offers a library, dance school, music school and the Museo de Las Americas. The museum is dedicated to the culture of Puerto Rico, displaying permanent art exhibitions, artifacts and a collection of carved saints. The museum is open to the public every day of the week, and has guides available to accompany visitors on an educational tour of the museum. The Cuartel de Ballaja is not just a historical wonder, but a fascinating and popular attraction in San Juan.