Given San Germán’s nickname as “Fundadora de Pueblos” –that is, Founder of Towns– it is clear that this southwestern municipality holds much historical significance. Founded in 1510, San Germán is the second oldest town in the island. As Spaniards gained a foothold on the island of Puerto Rico, their settlements evolved into towns such as San Germán. These would grow into cities that often expanded beyond their resources, imploding into several towns.
Unlike its counterparts in other municipalities, San Germán’s town center features two plazas, each with its own church. It is the Porta Coeli Church that most Puerto Ricans will recognize by name, if they haven’t visited it on a school field trip. It was founded in 1606, making it one of the oldest churches in the New World. Residents of San Germán have for centuries ventured to preserve historical structures such as Porta Coeli.
While Porta Coeli’s mostly unadorned façade gives off an air of monastic restraint, visitors will find many interesting religious artifacts inside the church-cum-museum. The elegant and exuberantly-detailed architecture of the surrounding buildings offsets the church’s plain look. For example, Calle Luna shows off the José Ortiz Perichi House, a widely-lauded Victorian-style residence. In fact, the town of San Germán’s Historic District is brimming with such buildings, making this a delightful tour by foot and/or trolley.
San German’s own home-schooled political revolutionary and poet, Lola Rodríguez de Tió, fought for the island’s independence, the abolition of slavery, and women’s rights. She wrote the lyrics to “La Borinqueña,” considered by many as an unofficial national anthem. She is also credited with the design of Puerto Rico’s flag, meant to signal its “sisterly” connection with Cuba. These days, sangermeños are also proud of native son Benicio del Toro, now an Oscar-winning actor who never fails to support up-and-coming Puerto Rican artists.