Coming from North America, city walls are not a concept I think of much in the context of modern settlements. The only city in modern North America with has a standing city gate anymore is Quebec City, a locale I regrettably passed up when travelling through Quebec. However, travelling through, or simply reading about cities of the Old World, whether Europe, Asia, or Africa, it becomes very obvious just how common they were in an earlier day and age.
San Juan, Puerto Rico is another modern city with a city wall surrounding the whole Old Town. Standing remnant from the days of Caribbean colonialism, the Port of San Juan is still one of the busiest ports in the world. Its history as such led to the British attempting to attack and seize the city several times. Each time, however, the Spanish forces held safely behind San Juan’s enormous wall and companion fortifications.
What stands today in the place of these former war defenses is a walkway along the 50-foot tall wall looking out across the harbor to the opposite peninsula where a leper colony used to be. Replacing the closed-off barrier is now a series of open gates leading into the city. It’s a peaceful path covered in greenery, the occasional stray kitten, and for some reason a lot of derelict kites when I was there.
The wall also serves as a separator of classes in one stretch. Along the northern coast of the Old City, just outside of the wall, is a neighborhood called La Perla. It’s well advised by locals that no one enter that neighborhood. It’s advice that I heeded. Still, it’s interesting seeing the raggedy slums of La Perla sitting beneath the wall and the well-kept buildings of the inner Old City within the wall.