The Ballajá district of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the old barracks area where Spanish troops were stationed in the mid- to late-19th century. The building was constructed by the Spanish army between 1854 and and 1864 and is one of the most impressive structures constructed by Spain in the New World, as well as one of its last domains of the region. The massive, open structure occupies over 7,000 square metres (75,347 square feet) and stands today as the last example of monumental military architecture by the Spanish Monarchy in the Americas.
Until 1898 the building was used as infantry barracks and permanent housing for approximately one thousand soldiers. Within the Ballajá were rooms for officers, soldiers and their families, storage areas, kitchens, dining rooms, jail cells, a chapel and stables for horses.
The northwest side of the barracks was damaged during the bombardment of San Juan on the 12th of May 1898, however the ascending vaulted gothic ceilings above the main staircase, which are unique in Puerto Rico, were unharmed.
After the change of sovereignty the building was used as barracks by the Americans until after 1939. Later, it was converted into the military hospital, Rodríguez General Hospital.
In 1976 the government of Puerto Rico acquired the Ballajá Infantry Barracks building from the federal government of the United States. A restoration project began to in order to use the building for cultural, educational and touristic purposes. In 1992 the Museo de las Americas, which is now located on the second floor of the building, was founded and by 1993 the restoration was completed. In addition to the museum, the building now houses a dance school and cultural space, the Puerto Rican Academy of Spanish Language, the State Office of Historic Convention and a coffee shop.
The Ballajá sculpture commemorates the rescue of the Ballajá district by the Puerto Rican people. The sculpture is located in the Plaza del Cuartel de Ballajá and consists of three figures, beautifully entwined. A woman represents the district, an old man symbolises those who have neglected it and a young man symbolises the spirit of a new generation of Puerto Ricans struggling to rescue their past from oblivion and thus affirm the value of their identity. The sculpture was created by Victor Ochoa and installed in 1992.
- Information sign at sculpture