On July 31, CBP employees in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands went back in time. We were all celebrating the 225th anniversary of the US Customs Service, the oldest of the agencies that in 2003 combined to form what we know today as US Customs and Border Protection. We were all learning the history of the US Customs Service and the historic Customhouses where some of us still work today. Our minds traveled to the past, while we spoke about our important mission for the future.
The San Juan Customhouse was bustling with activity, as the main lobby displayed old pictures and documents from as far as the 1900’s, memorabilia, insignias, and uniforms. The public was allowed entrance to our facilities, and employees and visitors were welcomed by San Juan Area Port Director Juan Hurtado, who gave a brief overview of the history of the US Customs Service and the important contributions of past and present employees from legacy agencies and the new CBP. Welcoming remarks were followed by a presentation by Mr. Andy Rivera, President of the Puerto Rico Historic Building Drawing Society. Mr. Rivera spoke about the spectacular historic significance of the San Juan Customhouse building, constructed in 1928, and of other customhouses across Puerto Rico, including historic buildings in Ponce, Mayaguez and Fajardo. He enthusiastically showed pictures of each architectural detail that define the historic buildings and complemented US Customs and Border Protection for making sure these buildings are preserved for future generations. Employees and visitors were enthralled by his presentation and recognized that we really have been working inside an architectural jewel.
To finish the day, each employee received an electronic presentation with the history of the US Custom Service and Customhouses in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The presentation covered the history of customs collections in the islands, from Spanish Colonial times to the present. Old pictures and historical facts dating back to the 1800’s spoke about our past and showed us a heritage that is alive today. We are standing on the shoulders of those that came before us and left their mark, as we look into the future and strive to leave our own mark in the protection of the nation we love.