Old San Juan Heritage Foundation, was founded on March 2017, formerly incorporated as Old San Juan Heritage Walking Tours, Inc. founded in 2010 is a socially responsible not for profit enterprise whose mission is to become the premier Cultural Heritage and Community Sustainable Tour Operator in Puerto Rico, and to connect with the diaspora with the purpose of creating a cultural psychology that we are one nation for the betterment of all. The Foundation welcomes all Good Neighbors to experience and appreciate Old San Juan as the Cradle of Hispanic Heritage in The New World. Through its humanitarian tours, community and sustainable economic development initiatives the Foundation seeks to enhance the Puerto Rico experience for tourist and residents while contributing to the improvement of the economic status of the residents and businesses located in “La Isleta”, which includes the communities of Old San Juan, La Perla and Puerta de Tierra.
Sustainable Tourism Activities & Achievements
1) The Foundation was the first to conduct two unique tours at the SAJU World Heritage Site. The first was an evening candlelight tour at Castillo San Cristobal targeted to late arriving cruise ship passenger entitled “Guardians of the New World… Through the Eyes of a Soldier”. The second Tour entitled “1797 The British Are Coming” was selected by Disney Cruise Line as their Signature Collection Tour.
2) First to utilize the Jr. Heritage Guide model in PR through which the Foundation has trained over 30 Sr. and Junior Heritage Guides using a 40 hour in house training program. The training program resulted in the creation of a multidisciplinary staff which enabled the Foundation the capacity to service large scale Convention Group from 50 -300 persons. The training model and curriculum was recognized and accepted by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company as appropriate to securing Tour Guide License Endorsement.
3) First to develop original Heritage content based on 16th through 19th century history and to create derivative works from the same time / period to promote folklore and knowledge of history such as “The Etiquette of The Fan”. This has been accomplished through a multidisciplinary approach which combines actors and tour guides. The actors wardrobe has been custom made with students from Puerto Rico School of Art and Design. We hire most of our staff from the community of OSJ and the surrounding disadvantaged communities.
4) Since 2016 we have worked alongside the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s Sustainable Tourism Division in activities such as:
• The organization of a Cultural Heritage Day Out for El Hogar Niños que Quieren Sonreir – a halfway
home for patients of pediatric cancer,
• A PRTC webinar for Sustainable Tourism Practices based on our best practices.
• The organization of a Cultural Heritage Day Out for Hogar Rafael Ibarra – a foster home for young
• Fund Raising for La Casa de Todos – a shelter for victims of domestic violence. In addition, we have
shared our experiences with fellow tour operators at the sustainable tourism fair which was featured
in the following article.
Tourism is one of the key economic engines in Puerto Rico that paves the road to economic opportunity and stability for all, especially those located in the Tourist zone who have historically not benefitted. Accordingly, the Founder and Executive Director of The Foundation decided to take the strategic and unconventional road by relocating their offices and directing their philanthropy efforts to the purchase and rehabilitation of a 5,000sq. ft. building located in the heart of La Perla, an OSJ community. La Perla abuts the OSJ tourist zone and is where historically OSJ poor people live alongside the haves. It is the Gateway Community between El Morro and San Cristobal which are part of the San Juan National Historic Site, the Caribbean’ # 1 Tourist destination site. La Perla is rich with history, home to the oldest cemetery, an oceanfront community accessed by few and appreciated by even fewer due to its notorious fame as a major drug distribution center. The Community of La Perla has decided to open its oceanfront doors to Tourism to share its proud history, culture and privileged location with The World. The foundation has worked alongside the PR Tourism Company on the development of a tour and the education of the community to be included in the tourism economy.
After Hurricane Maria our foundation stopped its mission and we went out to work hand in hand with the community:
Our volunteers and neighbors began with debris removal from day 1.
We serve as a community support center. We gave power to 6 neighbors surrounding our foundation building.
The foundation opened its doors as a communication center (with our land line) and served as cell phone recharge center.
Gave support for patients who needed respiratory therapy and to keep their insulin on ice.
As the crisis intensified, we began to store refrigeration items for the neighbors and created the community dining room to serve breakfast and a hot meal.
While the schools remained closed, we served as a workshop and tutorial center for the children.
The foundation has also received containers of humanitarian aid from the diaspora; not only for our community but for many communities on the island and we have channeled it through volunteer work.
We got engaged with our children and got donations of toys so that together we could enjoy Christmas.