Though it’s often overshadowed by the older and more popular fort, El Morro, Fort San Cristóbal in Old San Juan is the largest Spanish fortification in the New World. It was built to repel enemy attacks and, just like El Morro, features several “garitas,” or sentry boxes, where Spanish soldiers stood guard at night.
One of these boxes, built in 1634, stands out from the rest, as it’s surrounded by legend still today. Known as the “Garita del Diablo,” or “Devil’s Sentry Box,” it is located farther away from the others, protruding out into the ocean. It’s said that because of its remote location, and the eerie sounds that were often heard, it wasn’t popular among the Spanish guards.
The soldiers in the sentry boxes would occasionally shout at each other at night, to make sure everyone was alright and awake. Because the Garita del Diablo was so far away, the soldiers had to shout louder to compete with the crashing sounds of the ocean waves and the howling wind. One night, a soldier named Sanchez stood guard at the infamous sentry box. Every call directed at him went unanswered, the other soldiers feared for Sanchez’ safety, but no one dared to check on him until sunrise. They arrived to find no signs of the soldier; all that was left were his rifle and uniform. The superstitious guards claimed that Sanchez was taken away by the devil, and so the legend began.
Some locals at the time offered a more logical explanation. They claimed that Sanchez deserted his post to escape with the love of his life, a girl named Diana. Sanchez would play his guitar and sing to her to express his love, however, neither his superiors nor Diana’s stepmother approved the relationship. The couple agreed to meet one night when Sanchez was posted at the sentry box to make their escape. Diana brought him civilian clothes, and they escaped unseen to a private cottage in Sierra de Trujillo. Regardless of the verity of these stories, they were never seen again.
Nowadays, the Garita del Diablo remains inaccessible to the general public, but can be seen from the fort and the street in front of it. It is said that if you approach the sentry box at night, you might hear Sanchez’ guitar as well as laughter. Maybe it’s the sound of the happy couple, or maybe the Spanish soldier and his love are mocking the devilish legend around their disappearance.
Know Before You Go
The sentry box can be seen from Norzagaray street in front of Fort San Cristóbal. Keep in mind that it is currently inaccessible to the general public. You can technically go there, but it requires crossing steep and rocky hills so explore at your own risk if you really want a closer look. While you are there, feel free to visit the fort.