In the beginning of the 19th Century, the Spanish secured and settled Vieques Island and in 1811 Puerto Rico began the annexation of Vieques. Vieques was formally annexed to Puerto Rico in 1854. Sugar Cane plantations dominated the island in the 19th century and many immigrants arrived in Vieques to work on the plantations. Some were brought in as slaves and others as independent economic migrants.
Named after the Queen Isabel II, the first and only reigning female monarch of Spain, the town of Isabel II Isabel Segunda was founded in 1844, under the leadership of the second governor of Vieques, Fracisco Saînz.
Queen Isabella II came to the Spanish throne at the age of thirteen and was Queen regent of Spain from 1833 - 1868. Queen Isabel II is the proper title and name of the Monarch. Isabel II is the only town in Vieques and is often called El Pueblo by locals. After the Spanish-American war in 1898, Puerto Rico and Vieques were ceded to the United States. During WWII the US purchased about two thirds of the island as a base to provide a safe haven for the British fleet should Britain fall to Nazi Germany. After the war, the US Navy continued use of the area for military exercises.
In May 2003 the Navy withdrew from Vieques, and the land became a protected National Park Preserve, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildfe Service. Today Vieques island is the Caribbean’s largest national wildlife refuge, home to wild horses, sea turtles, migratory and resident bird populations and other wildlife.
El Fortin was the last fortress built by the Spaniards in the New World. Construction began in 1845 under order of the Governor of Puerto Rico, who was also known as the Count of Mirasol. Built to defend against European enemies in the Leeward islands and insurgent activists in South America, the fort was never used for military purposes.
Aside from it's permanent installations, the Museum hosts traveling exhibits and is home to the annual Cultural Festival of Vieques.
Robert Rabin is the curator of the museum, and the island historian. As the historian he brings the Vieques of bygone eras alive in exhibits, stories and visits to the historical sites.
The historic fort is open Wed - Sun from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Information at 787-741-1717. The fort overlooks the town of Isabel II and is an easy walk from there.