As with all cities in Puerto Rico, San Juan is a culture of diversity. A Spanish colonial city from 1521 to 1898, San Juan absorbed many traits of Spanish culture but also indigenous Caribbean culture. When Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory, American culture was added to the mix.
“Sanjuaneros,” the people of San Juan, would probably describe their city’s culture today as a blending of traditional island values with American modernity. The combination can be seen everywhere. In Old San Juan, people talk on cell phones amidst 16th century architecture; in the business districts, locals sell crafts out of corner booths dwarfed by skyscrapers.
If you’re looking to gain a more academic understanding of San Juan culture, start at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in Old San Juan. Features include a replica of a native Puerto Rican village, and uncovered artifacts predating Spanish rule of San Juan. The Institute web site is in Spanish, but phone numbers and contact information can be found
If you want to experience culture as a Sanjuanero would, spend an evening visiting the art galleries of Old San Juan, which are all within walking distance of one another. Another night should be devoted to seeing a film in Santurce’s glamorous Metro Cinema, which first opened in 1939.