Old San Juan has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior, an acknowledgement that is expected to raise the international visibility of this city's colonial quarter.

The interim director of the Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office, Berenice Sueiro, told Efe on Tuesday that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced 13 additions to the NHL list, among which is the Old San Juan Historic District/Distrito Historico del Viejo San Juan.

"This is a recognition that cannot be quantified and a great source of pride," said Sueiro.

She said that, besides the benefit that the recognition will bring in numbers of new tourists, it also constitutes support for the financial aid that could be allocated to the restoration of the most damaged portions of the Puerto Rican capital's colonial area.

Within the United States, Old San Juan "contains the largest collection of buildings representing four centuries of Spanish culture, religion, politics, and architecture," the Interior Department said in a statement.

Sueiro said that the nomination is a first step toward getting Old San Juan accepted as a candidate for the United Nations list of World Heritage Sites.

That list has included La Fortaleza, which houses the Puerto Rican government and some murals in San Juan, since 1983.

The historic part of the city is located on the Isleta de San Juan, a 3-square-mile island off the coast which is linked to the rest of San Juan by two bridges.

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