Arecibo, Puerto Rico

Arecibo is a municipality on the north coast of the island. It is known as the «Village of Captain Correa,» in honor of the heroic acts of Antonio de los Reyes Correa, who defended the village of Arecibo from the attack by the English in 1702. The Spanish colonel was awarded the Royal Effigy medal by the Spanish crown and was promoted to captain.

This flat, coastal town is 127 square miles in size. It is part of the karst zone, which is characterized by caves, sinkholes and limestone haystack hills called mogotes.

Arecibo has 100,131 residents, according to the 2000 U.S. Census and is divided into 19 sectors: Arecibo Pueblo, Arenalejos, Arrozal, Cambalache, Carreras, Domingo Ruiz, Dominguito, Esperanza, Factor, Garrochales, Hato Abajo, Hato Arriba, Hato Viejo, Islote, Miraflores, Río Arriba, Sabana Hoyos, Santana and Tanamá.

Arecibo residents celebrate various festivals during the year. Among the most important are the Patron Saint Festival in honor of San Felipe in April and the Arecibo Carnival, which takes place in the month of February.

Arecibo is also known for its traditional celebration of the Cetí Festival at the end of November. The cetí is a small fish that is frequently caught in the mouth of the Grande de Arecibo River during the quarter moon in July and during the same phase of the moon in subsequent months through January. Sometimes, these small fish form schools that can be as large as 25 to 30 meters long. Because of this fish, Arecibo is also known as the «Cetí City.»

The world’s largest radio-telescope is located in Arecibo. The gigantic structure, built of reinforced concrete, aluminum and steel, rises 565 feet above the mountains in the Esperanza sector. It was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at an initial cost of nine million dollars. It was inaugurated in November of 1963 under the direction of Prof. William E. Gordon of the Cornell University School of Electrical Engineering.

The geographic position of the town, approximately eighteen degrees north of the equator, makes it well suited for observations of the sun and the planets. The radio-radar telescope captures signals arriving from celestial objects in the farthest parts of the universe, and also contributes to scientific research on climate change.

Arecibo played an important production role in the Puerto Rico rum industry, as it was home to the Puerto Rico Distilling Co., founded in 1911. The company produced rums and other distilled liquors and sold them to other corporations on the island. Later, during Prohibition, it produced ethyl alcohol and Superior 70 rubbing alcohol. Over time, much of the land that belonged to this business was bought by the government of Puerto Rico to create housing projects.

Today, Arecibo has diverse industries related to the production of textiles, chemicals, and electronic equipment, among others. The service industry, business and agriculture remain part of the town’s economy, along with fishing.


The municipality is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the municipality of Utuado, on the east by the municipality of Barceloneta, and to the west by the municipality of Hatillo. Because of its location on the coast, the municipality is part of the northern coastal plain region.

Two important rivers cross the municipality: the Grande de Arecibo River (formed by the union of the Viví and the Don Alonso rivers) and the Tanamá River. The Grande de Arecibo is the fourth largest in Puerto Rico and the second largest in terms of volume of flow. In the south of the municipality is the Dos Bocas Lake, which is on the municipality’s border with Utuado. It is one of the principal lakes on the island because of its capacity, and third largest in terms of the size of its watershed. Its waters are used to produce electricity.

Among the main geographic features are the Morrillos, Caracoles and Las Tunas peaks. There are also various islets, such as Punta Caracoles and Los Negritos, and twelve caves, including those called Sorbeto, Clara, Oscura, Los Chorros, El Indio and Soto. Indigenous drawings of great historical and cultural value are found in these caves.

Other important natural resources in Arecibo include the Río Abajo and Cambalache state forests, both located in the karst zone. The Abajo River has thorny vegetation, as does the Cambalache forest. Among the trees found there are the royal palm and the trumpet tree. They provide habitat for some twenty species of birds.

On the banks of the river the Tainos called Abacoa, which today is the Grande de Arecibo, there was a settlement of about 200 indigenous people governed by the chief Arasibo. This territory, fed by the Grande de Arecibo and Tanamá Rivers, was granted by order of the Spanish crown in 1515 to Lope de Conchillos, who in turn sent Pedro Moreno to the island with orders to do battle with the Tainos and to manage the property. Upon arriving, Pedro Moreno sent the Indians to work on public works projects on the islet of San Juan and almost all of them died within a short time, thereby leaving the banks of the Abacoa River unpopulated.

In the middle of the 16th century, in the area settled by the yucayeque Tainos, a Spanish settlement was formed. Its members hunted turtles and raised livestock. By 1616, the hamlet, then called «Banks of the Arecibo», had some 80 families. The governor of that era, Captain don Felipe de Beaumont y Navarra, authorized the founding of the town and created a corresponding parish devoted to San Felipe.

On August 5, 1702, with Spain and England at war, two English ships under the command of Admiral Whelstone landed with the intent of taking the town. The captain of the militia, Antonio de los Reyes Correa, gathered his forces to fight off the enemy attack and won. This heroic defense won him the Royal Effigy medal and he was promoted to captain of the infantry. Because of these events, the town became known as the «Village of Captain Correa».

In 1778, the town was given the title of «Villa» by royal decree and was authorized to elect a council, justice of the peace and its own regiment. Nonetheless, the town was not actually formed until 1802. By 1804, Arecibo was divided into the following sectors: Cuatro Calles (today Tanamá), HatoViejo, Jagual, Miraflores, Factor, Santana, Domingo Ruiz, Alza Rabo (today Islote) and Camuy or Hato Grande. The Miraflores, Domingo Ruiz and Jagual sectors had disappeared by 1831. Later, the Hato Grande or Camuy sector was subdivided to form the Hato Arriba and Hato Abajo sectors and the municipality of Hatillo. In 1850, by Royal Decree, the town was conferred the «Muy Leal» title.

In 1878, the town was divided into the sectors of Arecibo Pueblo, Tanamá, Hato Viejo, Río Arriba, Arenalejos, Santana, Factor, Cambalache, Hato Abajo and Hato Arriba, with the Domingo Ruiz and Santana sectors reappearing and the Sabana Hoyos, Carreras, Dominguito and Garrochales sectors added. Years later, the Esperanza sector was created by separating a portion of the Dominguito sector. In 1899, the Arrozal sector was added and in 1937 the Tanamá, Miramar and San Luis sectors were created.

In 1855, a terrible and deadly cholera epidemic beset the population. It lasted for about 72 days. A total of 2,218 people were infected and 1,502 of them died. Another misfortune affected Arecibo in 1873: the so-called Girona fire, which destroyed nine houses. But the most devastating disaster occurred in 1893 when a fire consumed 27 houses and caused huge losses. Various earthquakes in 1844, 1867, 1875, 1890, 1906 and 1917 also caused considerable material damage.

The fertility of the land in Arecibo favored the development of agriculture, and the principal crop in the first half of the 20th century was sugar cane. Pineapple and other fruits were also planted. Arecibo also had a wealth of livestock ranches. The Arecibo River is known for its freshwater fish.

Other sources of income for the municipality are the operation of various manufacturing factories in areas such as distilling and the production of paper, clothing, and chemical products.


The colors of the flag are derived from the city’s coat of arms. The flag is divided vertically into two equal parts. One is blue in color, like the ocean that washes the municipality’s shore, and the other is yellow, like the sun. On the yellow part are fifteen blue diamonds arranged horizontally in five rows of three. The coat of arms is often placed in the center of the blue half of the flag when the flag is not accompanied by it.

Coat of Arms

Its origin dates to 1803. It was designed following the strict rules of heraldry. It consists of a crown that recalls the Taino chief Arasibo, who was baptized into the Christian faith with the name of Francisco Jamayca and who reigned over the Abacoa region, where Arecibo was settled. It has two turtles within a gold ring on each side of the crown, which denotes the age of the town and also represents the indigenous period, when hunting turtles was common. The diamonds are from the coat of arms of Don Felipe de Beaumont y Navarra, governor and captain general of Puerto Rico from 1614 to1620 and the founder of the town of Arecibo in 1616.

The coat of arms also has a gold belt with silver buckles that surrounds the coat of arms and represents Don Antonio de los Reyes Correa, hero of the Spanish army and defender of the city. Within the belt is the phrase «Muy Leal,» the title given to Arecibo in 1850 by Queen Isabel II of Spain.

The coat of arms reflects the history of Arecibo over the centuries. For example, the blue band represents the first Spanish settlement in Arecibo in 1515 and the Taino heritage. The diamonds represent the designation of Arecibo as a town in 1616 by Governor Felipe de Beaumont. Finally, the Crown Mural, with its five towers, symbolizes the municipality.

Places of Interest

• San Felipe Cathedral
• Indian Cave
• Los Morrillos Lighthouse Museum
• Arecibo Observatory
• Cambalache Forest Park
• Olympic Pool
• Los Negritos Beach

Illustrious Citizens

María Cadilla de Martínez
 (1884-1951) – Teacher, painter, essayist, historiographer, poet, short story writer, folklorist and feminist. In the literary world, she was known as ‘María de América’ and was internationally recognized as a «pioneering and most important figure in Puerto Rican folklore.» She published a series of books, including: Poesía popular en Puerto Rico (1933), Costumbres y tradiciones de mi tierra(1938), Juegos y canciones infantiles de Puerto Rico (1940), and Alturas paralelas (1941).

Luisa Capetillo Perone (1883-1922) – Feminist, writer and labor union activist. She was the first woman to wear pants in public in Puerto Rico. She belonged to the Free Federation of Workers and wrote essays, short stories and plays. Among her books are: Ensayos Libertarios (1907), Mi opinión(1911) and Influencias de las ideas modernas (1916).

Cayetano Coll y Toste (1850-1930) – Physician, poet, politician, journalist, essayist and historian. He studied medicine at the San Juan Council Seminary and surgery at the University of Barcelona. He began working as a journalist in Spain by founding the Revista Ramillete, of which he was editor. He was medical director at the Hospital de la Monserrate in Arecibo and the Home for Orphan Children, which he founded. His literary production displays great versatility. He published the following books: Boletín histórico de Puerto Rico, Crónicas de Arecibo, Colón en Puerto Rico, Historia de la instrucción pública en Puerto Rico hasta el año 1898, Leyendas y tradiciones puertorriqueñas, and others.

René Marqués
 (1919-1979) – Playwright, short story writer, novelist and essayist. The prolific writer was the author of the plays La carreta, Los soles truncos and Mariana o el alba, as well as a book of stories, En una ciudad llamada San Juan, the novels La víspera del hombre and La mirada, and the essay «El puertorriqueño dócil».

Manuel Zeno Gandía (1855-1930) – Physician, writer, journalist, politician and novelist. He severely criticized the society of his time in a series of novels titled Crónicas de un mundo enfermo, which consisted of La charca (1894), Garduña (1896) and Redentores (1899).


• Arecibo Carnival – February
• Centennial of the Puerto Rican flag – December
• Bicycle competition – January
• Artisan Fair – September
• Cetí Festival – November
• Folklore Festival – July
• San Felipe Apóstol Patron Saint Festival – May
• Beach festival – July


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