Fort Conde de Mirasol was the last fortification begun by the Spaniards in the New World. Construction was ordered by Rafael Aristegui Velez, the governor general of Puerto Rico, in 1845. The fort was planned to have a garrison for 50 men and 4 artillery pieces with the intent to protect the island of Vieques from pirate’s and Spain’s enemies.
The fort was begun but when Velez left the governorship in 1847 interest in and funding for the fort waned. The fort was never completed. In the late 19th century, the “fort that never was” became a notorious prison and execution site: a place where the Spanish rulers could attempt to eliminate realor perceived threats to their power.
After the Spanish-American war in 1898 the fort was abandoned and eventually fell into ruin. Some efforts were made over the years to preserve it but the funds were insufficient until 1989 when the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture undertook the restoration. By August 1991 and 1 million dollars later the fort was re-opened as a museum, archive and cultural center.
The original structures have been restored beautifully and authentically. It is a very typical hill-top Spanish defense center. It is a stone building and even incomplete is an impressive structure with walls that are up to 8 feet wide at the base and truly recaptures the romance of the Spanish Main. Visitors can be confident that marauding pairates would be blown from the sea by the cannon propped upon the wall. The view of Isabel Segunda and the sea are worth the short hike to the top of the hill.
The fort is impressive but don’t overlook the small museum located in the garrison. The collection encompasses the history of the island from the indigenous tribes, Spanish conquest, French sugar plantations, African slavery through to the controversial occupation by the US Navy. Ironically one of the statues on the fort is of Simon Bolivar- one of the main revolutionaries the Count of Mirasol wanted to keep out of the fort.
Open Wednesday through Sunday 8:30am-4:30pm and also a small admission fee.