On his second voyage, Christopher Columbus landed an island he named San Juan Bautista, or St. John the Baptist, with a fleet of 17 ships in 1493. Juan Ponce de Leon was with Christopher Columbus on this voyage and witnessed the locals showering Columbus with gold nuggets. As a result, Ponce de Leon returned to the island 15 years later to become the first Puerto Rican Governor after invading the island in 1508. The island was later renamed Puerto Rico, meaning 'rich port', and Juan Ponce de Leon enslaved the local inhabitants to mine for him. The islanders rebelled against Ponce de Leon and many fled Puerto Rico or took their own lives. Ponce de Leon was then forced to bring in African slaves as a cheap source of labor.
Christopher Columbus merely discovered new worlds and did not plunder or exploit the people of Puerto Rico. This is why his memory is favorably honored with a statue.
Columbus Square, or Plaza de Colon, is a well known landmark in Old San Juan. The plaza used to be known as St. James Square but it was renamed in 1893 as part of celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus' first arrival to Puerto Rico. In the center of Columbus Square is a solid stone column on which stands a marble statue of the legendary maritime explorer Christopher Columbus. The right hand of the statue holds a flag while a globe rests in the palm of his left hand. The pedestal is surrounded by bronze plates that depict the most important moments in the life of Christopher Columbus.
PHOTO: Casey Wohl in Columbus Square.