This colonial-era building located on San José Street at the corner of Luna Street in Old San Juan is known as “The House with Two Zaguanes” or “The Corralón on San José.” The structure, originally made of wood, was built in the 18th century.
The three-story building has a stairway that rises in the center of the entranceway, dividing the area into two corridors that gives the property its name: “The House with Two Zaguanes.” A zaguán is a covered space situated inside a house that serves as an entranceway and is immediately inside the front door.
The steep, two-flight stairway has an intermediate landing, which leads to a mezzanine and extends the two sides like hallways. The stairway is adorned with a railing of forged balusters. The steps are covered with a mosaic of tiles. Its architectural style is unique in Puerto Rico.
In the rear of the building are two round, covered balconies that overlook an interior patio that measures 8’ x 10’. Historian and art critic José Antonio Pérez Ruiz noticed the similarities between this building and the Corral de Comedias in Almagro, Spain. These “corralones” were small theaters created in the interior patios of buildings. Primarily comedies were presented there. The covered balconies that looked down on the stage from above were reserved for nobility or prominent figures. The rest of the public watched the show on foot from the lower floor in the open air theater.
The Theater Division of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture contracted Dean Zayas, Provi Seín and Carmelo Santana Mojica to research the building’s history. They came to the conclusion that the structure is an exact replica in miniature of the Corral de Comedias in Almagro.
In fact, Adolfo de Hostos, in Historia de San Juan, ciudad murada (1966), mentions the presence of a rambling wooden house, located on Luna Street, that served as a small theater and was known as El Moratín. According to de Hostos, the repertoire consisted mainly of comedies about the bourgeoisie by playwright Leandro Fernández de Moratín and traditional comedies by Manuel de Goroitiza y Bretón.
The building is the only corralón type structure in Puerto Rico and the Americas. It was José Ramón de la Torre who renamed “The House with Two Zaguanes” to “The Corralón on San José,” following the Spanish custom of naming buildings for the street on which they are located.
Over the years, the house has had various uses. In addition to serving as a residence, it housed government offices and the Museum of the Indian. After its original use was discovered, it was re-inaugurated on April 6, 2001, as a theater hall seating two hundred people. The University of Puerto Rico’s Traveling Theater presented Los melindres de Belisa by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, under the direction of Professor Dean Zayas.
Currently, the stage is used by theater and drama students at the José Julián Acosta School of arts. The third level of The Corralón on San José houses the offices of the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities.
De Hostos, Adolfo. Historia de San Juan ciudad murada 1521-1898, Río Piedras, ICP, 1966. ( p. 437)
http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/12820/1/20090402083637633.pdf Moratín y el naturalismo teatral de la restauración Carmen Menéndez Onrubia Consejo Superior de Investigaciones científicas, Instituto de Filología.
Marat, Abniel. Corralón de San José, Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña Año. 5, # 10.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 12, 2016.
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