San Juan’s Esplanade of San Felipe del Morro is a place to picnic, a place to socialize, a place to daydream. It’s also a place for feeling reborn.
What is it about lawns. We love them. We even love them in places that don’t love them back. Something about a green expanse of turfy grass gets our hearts beating faster; makes them feel fuller; keeps us grounded literally and figuratively. Because yes, many of us like to sit, play, and lounge on these natural carpets. Originally a European invention, they have, for better or for the ecological worse, become an international pastime.
Of all the public lawns in this world, there are a handful of special lawns. San Juan’s Esplanade of San Felipe del Morro is one of them. You know this immediately upon viewing it from a distance. Cascading from the colorful streets of a colonial capital, it descends toward the ocean smoothly and verdantly. Follow it all the way down for wind in high doses — bright and balmy, the salty air pushes you into the green and catapults you into the blue. You are in a cool color sandwich — refreshing, crisp, and pure. A feather drifting on the edge of the earth.
Originally designed by Spanish colonizers to keep invaders at bay from its connected fortress, today this esplanade attracts and invigorates.
Bullets once flew here, but now it’s just kites — schools of kids dart in zig-zag motions, barely holding their own against the wind. And it isn’t just tourists. In fact, the majority of people here are locals. This is one of those unique spots that residents and visitors alike can appreciate, frequent, and never tire of. No need to avoid it on a Saturday because tourists will be there. Anyone and no one could be there. And when everyone’s there, that’s okay.
In this way the esplanade has evolved from a battleground to an even playing field. People of all ages and from all walks of life are happy to be running around this expansive lawn because they know it feels good.
There are no other pretenses about it: shaved ice next on a big lawn next to the sea is about as universal a pleasure as can exist on this earth.
This is not to say that an afternoon on the esplanade is always sunny or stereotypically cheery. Santa’s elves are not always dancing here, though they can be if that’s the mood. Anyone could come here to cheer themselves up, spend time with loved ones, and admire the world’s mysterious beauty. That said, this particular spot is so dramatic an experience — a literal drop off into unknown waters — that you could visit it for the express purpose of feeling the height of whatever emotion you need or want to feel. Elation, grief, hope, humor, fear. It could be the best place for a birthday picnic, or the optimal location to spend the hours following a breakup — that is, if you really want to feel the feels, and by extension, accelerate the process of moving on.
Sitting on the remains of a hundreds-year-old fortress, staring out into the abyss right where opposite elements meet as one. Salty tears, salty air and sea — and then the wind whips them away.
At the expense of making the experience sound like a drug, let us confirm: all of this is seriously true. The esplanade can be whatever you want it to be. It will meet you on your level, then force you out of it. Visit in June feeling melancholy, visit in July feeling joyful — each time you could experience any range of emotions and feel no associations with past memories that have taken place there. On the esplanade, nothing, apart from sky and sea, feels like forever.
In a sense, visiting this lawn is baptism by wind, earth, and water — no fire necessary. So close to the land’s end, cleansed by the environment: on this geographic edge you can, in some way, allow yourself to be reborn.
Made to spend.