Second cities, the stepdaughters of the urban world, have always had trouble emerging from the shadows of their more glamorous big sisters. And ever since it was founded in 1692 on the island?s southern coast between a mountain range and the Caribbean Sea, Ponce has had to contend with San Juan?s pre-eminence.
It was San Juan that settlers chose as the island?s seat of government and center of commerce. It was San Juan where developers built glittery casinos and high-rise hotels. And San Juan is where cruise ships deposit thousands of tourists every day.
But in the last few years, Ponce has started making a serious effort at big-city respectability. Tourist visits jumped 8 percent from 2005 to 2007, partly because three airlines ? Continental, JetBlue and Spirit ? now offer direct flights from the continental United States to Ponce?s renovated airport.