A Very Short Story: El Morro Light, Castillo San Filipe del Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

The fort held off Sir Frances Drake, whose ships got tangled in a metal chain that the colonizing Spanish strung across the harbor’s mouth. The lighthouse came later, then cracked, then was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century by the Americans, then automated in the early 1960s. The Cost Guard calls the lighthouse’s style Moorish Revival “tower on castle” but the latter part is merely descriptive; it’s not some signature hallmark of the oeuvre. So, too, the fort itself bears some canonical inconsistency. San Filipe was a King, and though he was Catholic, he was no saint ā€” literally.

We didn’t know any of this when we went, too dazzled by the island’s beaches, by its candy-colored old town with its blue-black ballast paving stones. The distractions that put so many lobster-red, booze-fueled tourists on the streets. We climbed up to the light in sandals, us and the other passers-through, a little less red, making our way across the long green stretch that led up to the wall. And all we wanted was shade, water, sunblock, and context. We saw first ā€” walked into the tiny lookout towers, saw the bold blue stripe of sea out the windows ā€” and filled in all the rest later, at home, from the safety of our beds, computer screens lighting our ghost faces.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.