I think I lived in San Francisco, CA for 18 years before I visited Alcatraz Island, and then only because I was accompanying my out of town friend.
This week we went to visit the Santa Cruz Fortress that sits at the very lip of the entrance to Guanabara Bay. Bill, one of our guests, grinned with curiosity when I mentioned it as one potential day outing. He is a tribal art dealer and has a strong interest in all things combat.
The location could not be more scenic, that’s what I enjoyed. The details of the numerous ways prisoners were tortured and killed kept Bill engaged, but were it not for the need for translation I would have wandered from the tour group.
- the fortress, an earlier version of what now stands, was first built in 1612
- from the beginning the fortress has contained the biggest and most powerful cannons available
- starting in 1831 the place became a self described political prison and torture chamber
In 1748 on French traveler wrote:
"The Fortress of Santa Cruz, the country's most important, is situated on the edge of a cliff, a place where all boats entering or leaving the port are required to pass at a distance less than the range of a musket shot. The fortification consists of a compact piece of masonry from 20 to 25 feet tall, lined with white stones that seem fragile. Their artillery has 60 pieces of cannon, 18 and 24 inches in diameter, installed to cover the outside the harbor entrance, passage and a part of the bay [Guanabara]."
Present day visitors are encouraged not to miss:
- the dungeon (complete with grizzly tales of alleged torture)
- the wall of shooting (do you see a pattern?)
- the prison (where prisoners were not meant to survive their imprisonment)