The small island of Isla de Cabras lies across the channel from Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. It it the site of Fort San Juan de la Cruz, a vital defence system, and was once also used as a leprosy colony. Today much of the island is a recreation area, managed by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and a visit to Isla de Cabras offers a dramatic view of El Morro, looming high over the entrance to San Juan Bay.
The small fort of San Juan de la Cruz is better known today as El Cañuelo. By creating a deadly crossfire with the artillery at El Morro, El Cañuelo made it nearly impossible for an enemy ship to enter San Juan Harbour. El Cañuelo is preserved today as part of San Juan National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System.
In 1876 San Juan’s city council built a hospital on Isla de Cabras to isolate people suffering from leprosy. At that time a diagnosis of leprosy was a death sentence and people were exiled from many places to prevent the spreading of the disease. The colony illustrates one of the many challenges of living in a walled city such as San Juan, where close quarters enabled diseases to spread extremely quickly.
- Information signs on Paseo de la Princesa