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La Fortaleza, located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the first of the fortifications built in San Juan's harbor. La Fortaleza is also known as Palacio de Santa Catalina (The Palace of Saint Catalina). Originally designed to ward off invaders, the fortress eventually became a residential mansion of Puerto Rico's governor. Today, despite renovations, La Fortaleza retains its splendor and continues to be the official residence and offices of the Governor. It also serves as a National Historic Landmark, and is within the San Juan National Historic Site. It opens on weekdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

The fort was constructed between 1533 and 1540, composed of a circular tower now known as Torre del Homenaje (lit. Tower of Homage) and four large stone walls. La Fortaleza was built to defend against Carib Indian raids; the fort has a reputation of being taken over by invaders only twice. The first was by the English in 1598, and then the Dutch in 1625. The fortress was burned with the city during the second siege; the original tower, however, still stands to this day. Sometime around the late 16th century, a second tower dubbed as the Autsral became an addition to the fortress. Beginning in 1640, it became a custom for the Governor to make the tower as his official residence. By 1846, La Fortaleza was expanded and its street facade was changed into its current blue and white color. It was most likely around this time that the original tower was christened as Torre del Homenaje, after the tradition wherein the current governor pledges on the top of the tower an oath of his loyalty and bravery during periods of peril.

The fortress's history is revisited as guided tours and current displays retell the story of La Fortaleza. The beautiful interior of the fortress include exquisitely decorated banquet halls, galleries and various rooms furnished with style of the previous time periods. A broken, old, mahogany grandfather clock is among the best things to see in the mansion, and tells a story of its own. It was said that the last Spanish governor of Puerto Rico stood in front of the clock and struck the clock's face with his sword, moments before giving up the fortress and the island. He stopped the ticking of the clock, indicating the exact time of the Spanish Rule's last moment in Puerto Rico. Other rooms and displays under the fortress's roof tell their own story, syncing with that of the fort's.

La Fortaleza's legacy and importance to San Juan is an unforgettable one, tested by the sands of time. A walk inside this fortress is a walk into an open book -- for La Fortaleza never fails to tell its beautiful tale.
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