San Juan (from the Spanish San Juan Bautista, "Saint John the Baptist") is the capital and largest municipality on Puerto Rico. As of the 2000 census, it has a population of 433,733, making it the 42nd-largest city under the jurisdiction of the United States. San Juan was founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, who called it Ciudad de Puerto Rico ("City of Puerto Rico"). It is the oldest city in Puerto Rico as well as in the United States; and the second oldest European-established city in the Americas, after Santo Domingo. The city serves as location to several historical buildings. Among the most notable are the city's former defensive forts, Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristobál.
Today, San Juan serves as one of Puerto Rico's most important seaport, and is the island's manufacturing, financial, cultural, and tourist center. The population of the metropolitan area, including San Juan and the municipalities of Bayamón, Guaynabo, Cataño, Canóvanas, Caguas, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Carolina and Trujillo Alto is about 2 million inhabitants; hence about half the population of Puerto Rico now lives and works in this area. The city has been the host of numerous important events within the sports community including the Pan American Games, Central American and Caribbean Games and the Caribbean Series.
In 1508, Juan Ponce de León founded the original settlement Caparra (named after the province Caceres, Spain, the birthplace of then-governor of Spain's Caribbean territories Nicolas de Ovando), which today is known as the Pueblo Viejo sector of Guaynabo just to the west of the present San Juan metropolitan area. A year later, the settlement was moved to a site then called Puerto Rico, Spanish for "rich port" or "good port," after its similar geographical features to the island of Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. In 1521, the newer settlement was given its formal name, San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico, in honor of John the Baptist, following the tradition of christening the town with both its formal name and the name which Christopher Columbus had originally given the island.
San Juan, as a settlement of the Spanish Empire, was used by merchant and military ships traveling from Spain as the first stopover in the Americas. Because of its prominence in the Caribbean, a network of fortifications was built to protect the transportation of gold and silver from the New World to Europe. For these reasons, San Juan became a target of the foreign powers of the time.