TRIVIAL PURSUITS: What is the oldest city on U.S. territory?

April 16, 2013 – What is the oldest city founded by Europeans on what is now U.S. territory?

San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, is the oldest city on U.S. territory. Founded in 1521 by Juan Ponce de León, who named it City of Puerto Rico (“Rich Port”).   

In 1493, during his second voyage, Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico. He named the island “San Juan Bautista”, in honor of John the Baptist. But, it was not until 1508, that the Spanish government appointed Juan Ponce de León as the first governor of the island. He founded the original settlement in Caparra, now known as Pueblo Viejo, behind the almost land-locked harbor just to the west of the present metropolitan area and the city quickly became Spain’s most important military outpost in the Caribbean.   

A year later, the original settlement was relocated to a nearby coastal islet (to the site of what is now called Old San Juan) and named Puerto Rico. Sometime during the 1520s, confusion over the names led to a switch, the island took the name of Puerto Rico and the town became San Juan.
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