National Geographic : 1951 Apr
440 Hamilton Wright Plaza Col6n, San Juan's Columbus Square, Sees All Urban Buses Come and Go Old San Cristobal fort (right) fired Puerto Rico's first shot in the Spanish-American War. Spanish defenders aimed it at the auxiliary cruiser Yale, one of Admiral William T. Sampson's besieging ships. growing in the branches. The forest, which is accustomed to 60-mile-an-hour winds every few days, is hurricane-resistant. The U. S. Forest Service also operates the Toro Negro Division of the Caribbean Pur chase Unit, which lies in the center of the island, about 35 miles southwest of San Juan. Puerto Rico has about 500 native species of trees, and many of them are found in these forestry preserves. Only a very few are native to continental United States. Most of the 500 are evergreen. Among the many varieties of hardwood, mahogany, though not native to the island, is now planted on a small scale. We saw (and heard) Puerto Rican parrots (Amazona vittata vittata) near El Yunque. The predominantly green birds, less than a foot long, once were common throughout the island, but today they are found only in the Sierra de Luquillo. The Puerto Rican crow (Corvus leucognaphalus), nearly extermi nated, also has made its last stand here. Puerto Rican tanagers, the bare-legged owl, and the scaled pigeon are encountered more frequently. New Airport to Handle 500 Flights Daily On our way back from El Yunque, Locke and I passed the site of San Juan's new airport, barely discernible in the dust raised by trucks moving earth from the landing strips. The new field, to cost about $12,000,000, will be able to handle 500 flights a day, as the main funnel through which many air operations will pour between New York and Latin America. Plans call for two 8,000-foot runways, one equipped for instrument landings. One morning Locke and I started out from San Juan on a drive which was to take several days, leading us to the northwestern tip of the island, then along the western and south ern coasts as far as Central Aguirre (page 459), and back to San Juan over the moun tains by way of Caguas. Our smooth road along the north coast had been built as a military highway during World War II.