La Perla is not a sight you would expect to see in a major tourist area. This neighborhoods known as La Perla, is located right in between the forts of San Cristobal and El Morro, two of the most significan historic landmarks, part of San Juan National History Site. Both tourists and residents of Puerto Rico are curious of the neighborhood, for some it causes discomfort. This community has much history and perhaps is the most unique on the island. If you’re wondering, La Perla does not even come close to representing what communities on the rest of the island look like.
La Perla is east of the beautiful cemetery of Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis, nestled between the city walls facing the Atlantic Ocean on Calle Norzagaray. Today, the spot of La Perla is considered prime real estate with developers and investors keeping a watchful eye on this land. Many have tried to buy these properties for top dollar, but proud residents refuse to give up their home.
Back in the 19th century, being outside the city walls was not desirable. There was a slaughterhouse on the site; slaves, the homeless, and non-white servants were required to live outside the city walls, so that was the beginning of homes being built right on the waterfront on that site. Back in those days, living right on the water was for the poor and landless, but today it has reversed.
La Perla remains, the families that have lived there for many years defend their right to keep their homes. The government has tried in many ways to get them to move from the area in order to beautify the area, but it has failed. La Perla is a unique community with a history that goes back for generations.
We ask tourists to please be respectful of La Perla residents. You wouldn’t want people taking photographs of your backyard, they don’t like it either. Residents of La Perla have a very strong code, they strongly respect tourists, and there has not been any history of visitors being harmed.
Many cultural events are held each week right along Calle Norzagaray where locals and visitors are safe and enjoy the festivities. Residents of La Perla don’t bother anyone; they go about their everyday business in their community like everyone else. Great musical talent has come out of residents in La Perla.
When you pass La Perla, take a few pics if you wish from the street and continue your walking tour of Old San Juan. There are plenty of wonderful attractions to focus on during your visit.
History of Crime at La Perla
Yes, the history of crime is high and typically related to drugs, but that is also true for a few other neighborhoods in the city. The history of crime does not spill out into Old San Juan where visitors frequently visit. Most residents of La Perla are regular people with families and children who are proud and loyal to their community.
San Juan Map of La Perla