My other stop in November was a midweek visit to San Juan. I needed to get there in Calendar Year 2021, as this is the 500th anniversary of the Catedral Metropolitana Basilica de San Juan Batista, making it the second-oldest in the Western Hemisphere (behind only the cathedral in the Dominican Republic).
The Cathedral is a popular site on any tour of San Juan’s Old Town, so the daily Mass I attended was taking place around a steady stream of tour groups and solo travelers. Some of them even take in the Mass. I met and had a nice conversation with one of those Mass-going tourists, a Catholic convert from the Baptist faith who lives in Utah, which is, of course, just who you would expect to find in San Juan.
I was given a tour of the facility by Luis Jay Rivera Marcano, a young man who is in charge of all the art that belongs to the cathedral. The tour does not include the crypt below the altar, which houses 19 deceased bishops, but is now inaccessible to all due to previous construction.
But it did include a site the average tourist doesn’t get to see: the 500-year-old spiral staircase located in a space behind the altar. I provided Exhibit A why that staircase is not on the normal tour, as I missed the final step on my descent and went sprawling down, a tumble that didn’t just wound my pride, but swelled my ankle a few sizes past normal. Nonetheless, it was a great experience in Puerto Rico’s capital city.