Mission Statement: Old San Juan Heritage Foundation, LLC was founded on March 2017, formerly incorporated as Old San Juan Heritage Walking Tours, Inc. founded in 2010 is a socially responsible not for profit enterprise whose mission is to become the premier Cultural Heritage and Community Sustainable Tour Operator in Puerto Rico, and to connect with the diaspora with the purpose of creating a cultural psychology that we are one nation for the betterment of all. The Foundation welcomes all Good Neighbors to experience and appreciate Old San Juan as the Cradle of Hispanic Heritage in The New World. Through its humanitarian tours, community and sustainable economic development initiatives the Foundation seeks to enhance the Puerto Rico experience for tourist and residents while contributing to the improvement of the economic status of the residents and businesses located in “La Isleta”, which includes the communities of Old San Juan, La Perla and Puerta de Tierra.
A Puerto Rican from NY with a mother born in Ponce and with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Criminal Justice, a Master’s in Public Policy, and a Fellowship from Columbia University who was privileged to perform public service as a NYC Housing Commissioner and thereafter recognized by the “Somos El Futuro” of the NYS Hispanic Legislative Caucus as the small business person of the year in 2005. I came to PR in 2005 as a semi retiree and bought my home in OSJ. I assembled a professional team to do Historical Property Development in OSJ and Cultural Heritage Programs.
Born and raised in Manatí, PR. Graduated high school with honors and was recipient of “The Presidential Award”, signed by Pres. Bill Clinton. In 2006, she was one of 20 students selected to participate in the prestigious Internship “Jorge Alberto Ramos Comas” in PR Senate. Assigned to the Ethics Commission she excelled top of her class and passed the internship with Academic Excellence. In her college years Lorel collaborated on founding a project called the “ECOQUIDS CLUB” a children’s environmental educational program which in 2010 was recognized by the US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, REGION 2 and received an “Environmental Quality Award”, for Protecting and Enhancing the Environmental Quality in PR. As a young entrepreneur, Lorel has been on the cutting edge of heritage and sustainable tourism and earned the Foundation a nomination for the 2017 prestigious Heritage Protection Award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Sustainable Tourism Activities & Achievements
1) The Foundation was the first to conduct two unique tours at the SAJU World Heritage Site. The first was an evening candlelight tour at Castillo San Cristobal targeted to late arriving cruise ship passenger entitled “Guardians of the New World… Through the Eyes of a Soldier”. http://www.walkosj.com/San_Cristobal_VIP_Tour.html. The second Tour entitled “1797 The British Are Coming” was selected by Disney Cruise Line as their Signature Collection Tour.
2) First to utilize the Jr. Heritage Guide model in PR through which the Foundation has trained over 30 Sr. and Junior Heritage Guides using a 40 hour in house training program. The training program resulted in the creation of a multidisciplinary staff which enabled the Foundation the capacity to service large scale Convention Group from 50 -300 persons. The training model and curriculum was recognized and accepted by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company as appropriate to securing Tour Guide License Endorsement.
3) First to develop original Heritage content based on 16th through 19th century history and to create derivative works from the same time / period to promote folklore and knowledge of history such as “The Etiquette of The Fan”. This has been accomplished through a multidisciplinary approach which combines actors and tour guides. The actors wardrobe has been custom made with students from Puerto Rico School of Art and Design. We hire most of our staff from the community of OSJ and the surrounding disadvantaged communities.
• The organization of a Cultural Heritage Day Out for El Hogar Niños que Quieren Sonreir – a halfway
home for patients of pediatric cancer,
• A PRTC webinar for Sustainable Tourism Practices based on our best practices.
• The organization of a Cultural Heritage Day Out for Hogar Rafael Ibarra – a foster home for young
• Fund Raising for La Casa de Todos – a shelter for victims of domestic violence. In addition, we have
shared our experiences with fellow tour operators at the sustainable tourism fair which was featured
in the following article: https://www.metro.pr/pr/economia/2017/05/09/turismo-presenta-feria.html
Tourism is one of the key economic engines in Puerto Rico that paves the road to economic opportunity and stability for all, especially those located in the Tourist zone who have historically not benefitted. Accordingly, the Founder and Executive Director of The Foundation decided to take the strategic and unconventional road by relocating their offices and directing their philanthropy efforts to the purchase and rehabilitation of a 5,000sq. ft. building located in the heart of La Perla, an OSJ community. La Perla abuts the OSJ tourist zone and is where historically OSJ poor people live alongside the haves. It is the Gateway Community between El Morro and San Cristobal which are part of the San Juan National Historic Site, the Caribbean’ # 1 Tourist destination site. La Perla is rich with history, home to the oldest cemetery, an oceanfront community accessed by few and appreciated by even fewer due to its notorious fame as a major drug distribution center. The Community of La Perla has decided to open its oceanfront doors to Tourism to share its proud history, culture and privileged location with The World. The foundation has worked alongside the PR Tourism Company on the development of a tour and the education of the community to be included in the tourism economy.
Work done after the passage of Hurricane Maria, to the benefit of the surrounding communities.
After Hurricane Maria our foundation stopped its mission and we went out to work hand in hand with the community: