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Magic: The Traveling

A Magic: the Gathering travel blog
Finding MtG in the most unlikely places

El Morro Fort vs. Fortified Area

Magic the Gathering Card: Fortified AreaEl Morro Castle, San Juan, Puerto Rico

El Morro Fort
Old San Juan
Puerto Rico

37.0625
-95.677068

Seen through the lens of history, it seems inevitable that the mindset of medieval fortification would end in the muzzle flash of the black powder age. Yet we forget that between Mehmed II’s Hungarian-made bombards reducing the walls of Constantinople to Byzantine flavored rubble and our modern age of invisible insurgencies, worrying about the effect of PowerPoint on our command structure , Microwave ‘Pain’ Rays and communist stealth paint lay a half-millennia of elegant and imposing physical defenses.

Fort San Felipe del Morro’s six meter thick walls tower over a thin strip of feral-cat haunted shore, a silent testament to a time when a regimental surgeon was just as likely to sew up a cutlass slash as he was to remove a musket ball from a putrefying wound. Construction on this imposing edifice lasted for over 400 years, which if you believe Clay Shirky, is just about long enough for one person working ceasly to write 1/28th of Wikipedia.

El Morro’s (“The Promontory”) purpose today is to attract visitors, rather than repel them, but tourists put off by the reasonably strenuous clambering should feel in good company. Sir Francis Drake and his English we-swear-we-aren’t-pirates-because-we-got-a-note-from-the-Queen were sent home with a cannonball through Drake’s cabin –proving that in life, at least, a reinforced bulwark can be better defense than a sea drake.

In fact, until Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the U.S. in the treaty of Paris at the close of the Spanish American war in 1898, El Morro only fell in Battle once –to George Clifford, the Duke of Cumberland. “Stinky Pants” Cumberland’s forces took El Morro from the land side and managed to occupy the fort briefly before succumbing to dysentery in what, I believe, is basically the plot to War of the Worlds .
Fittingly, it is also from the landside that contemporary visitors gain entrance to El Morro.

Positioned at the northwestern point of San Juan islet, El Morro provided not just interlocking fields of fire but also a spectacular view of the mouth of San Juan bay, Isla de Cabras and a former leper colony. With a map and 50 cents for the viewfinder, present day visitors can just about make out Bacardi’s Cathedral of Rum in nearby Cantano across the bay.

For this weary (and pina colada-scented) traveler, one of El Morro’s less considered charm was its closeness to the absolutely stunning Hotel El Convento. Occupying the grounds of a 15th century mission-style Carmelite convent, this boutique gem was an absolute redoubt from a world sorely lacking in breeze-cooled and bougainvillea perfumed terraces, 4 fantastic restaurants on site, and wickedly strong drinks. If that alone wasn’t enough to lure us back from exploring the hidden charms of Old San Juan, the daily complimentary wine and cheese reception certainly was, not to mention it was kind of like having our own Adventurers’ Guildhouse where we could band with others.

For the truly adventurous though, the fact that El Convento is also exactly five wobbly steps across the street from the best dive bar in Old San Juan is either providence or the devil’s work, depending on where you fall in the Devine Vs. Demonic demographic.

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