El Capitolio, San Juan
On our way to Old San Juan, our cab driver who happened to be from New York said that we should visit the Capitolio built 1919 and see the ceiling which could rival the Sistine Chapel…hmmm, he seemed proud of this building which looked magnificent from outside and he said it was all made out of marble. So, we did go to it after lunch in Old San Juan.
And it is free to enter this building where the Legislative Assembly meets (House of Representatives and Senate). A lady guard and tour director greeted us and just asked where we were from and we said Arizona, and I think they kept a log.
She brought us under the dome and yes, the ceiling was magnificent – showcasing the history of Puerto Rico! And underneath the ceiling is the Constitution of Puerto Rico – the original one and you can see the whole document if you google it…but what is important is that this Archipelago is a Commonweath.
The lady also explained to us three sources of the marble, looks like it came from Italy, Spain? And the USA (3 states I think)…and there were three levels o explore.
We saw a painting gallery at the lower level which also has a cafeteria and the place is teeming with people in business suits because this is really a place for people who make the law. The third level gives a nice view of the constitution glassed cabinets from above.
Since this is a little far from the Plaza de Colon, tourists coming from the cruise ships miss it...and that is such a pity because this is a magnificent building! The entrance is also a bit diificult to find, and if you get to the wrong door...it is a long walk to the other door...but just enjoy the outside of the Capitolio as you look for the correct door. It is worth a visit.
El Capitolio de San Juan was built in the 1920s just outside of the old city, close to Fort San Cristobal. It was built in an effort to officialize the position of Puerto Rico as part of the American Commonwealth, and promote the political autonomy of the territory. Its design was influenced by the architecture of the Washington Capitol building, but inside the Capitolio, the history of Puerto Rico is reflected in every corner. Statues of the island's most influential politicians can be found, including that of Luis Muños Marin who was Governor of Puerto Rico for 16 years and a much beloved politician according to our guide.
Even though the dozens of policemen hovering around the Capitolio's main entrance might make it seem like it's off limits to visitors, people are welcome to tour around the central part of the building. When we walked in, a lady greeted us and invited us to take pictures inside the Capitolio. A few minutes later she joined us and gave us some information about the building. We learned that over 20 types of marble imported from all over the world were used in its construction, and that mosaics and gold leaves were used to decorate the dome so that it wouldn't be damaged by salt water the way paint would. She also described the different scenes depicted in the mosaics, from the arrival of Cristobal Colon, to the Spanish-American war and the abolishment of slavery on the island.
The Capitolio is open to visitors Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
The Capitolio is Puerto Rico's Capitol building and is home to Puerto Rico's lawmakers. This impressive building was built on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The building houses both the Senate and the House of Representatives. All members of the house hold offices here in the annexed building to the Capitolio.
The beautiful Rotunda holds the original copy of the Constitution of Puerto Rico which was signed in 1952.
Admission is free with tours offered both in English and Spanish.