The Watch

Real Fuerza de Santiago de Arroyo

Araya, Venezuela

2004 World Monuments Watch

Warmed by gentle Caribbean breezes and surrounded with beaches lapped by azure waters, the Real Fuerza de Santiago de Arroyo’s languid setting reveals little of its tumultuous history. One of the great prizes of the legendary Spanish Main, the fortress was the target of pirates and privateers, eager as they were to access the Salinas of Cumana, which abounded in pure salt, an essential ingredient for the preservation of foodstuffs at sea. Built between 1622 and 1631, the fortress was designed by Bautista Antonelli, military architect of Felipe II, as part of a series of fortifications throughout the Caribbean from Havana to Portobelo. Heavily damaged during an earthquake in 1684 and made redundant after the flooding of the local salt mines in 1725, the fort was partially demolished by the Spanish in 1760. Since then, the ruin has deteriorated due to neglect and erosion from rainwater infiltration, and has suffered from inappropriate interventions carried out without proper supervision. New coastal construction has begun to encroach on the site, threatening the integrity of the fort’s historic and idyllic landscape. Due to the financial realities and political turmoil of the country, the Venezuelan Institute of Cultural Patrimony, despite institutional efforts, has not had the resources to undertake a much needed conditions assessment, develop a master plan, or implement a preservation program. Until then the fortress will continue to surrender to its newest foe, the sea. Last update: 2004

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