The municipality of Coamo is located in the central south region of Puerto Rico and measures 200.56 square kilometers (77.44 square miles). The name of the town, a Taino word, means “extended plain.” The town is also known as the “town of San Blas de Illescas,” “the old town,” “the town of the thermal waters,” and “the center of the universe,” the townspeople are known as the “marathon runners.” According to the 2000 census, there are 37,597 coameños livign in eleven wards: Coamo Arriba, Coamo Pueblo, Cuyón, Hayales, Los Llanos, Palmarejo, Pasto, Pedro García, Pulguillas, San Ildefonso, and Santa Catalina. The patron saint is San Blas de Illescas, whose day is celebrated on February 3. Another traditional festival, the day of Our Lady of Candlemas, is celebrated on February 2. The world-famous San Blas de Illescas half-marathon is held during these festivities.
Coamo is very popular for its thermal waters known as the “Coamo Baths.” There is also an inn in the area of the baths. The first guest house on the site was built by Andrés G. Luhring in 1847. Ten years later, José Usera became the proprietor and built an elegant building using brick and rubble masonry and local woods. Today, the only remains of the original hotel are the restaurant, the thermal water pools and a few walls that add to the historic ambiance of the modern inn. Other economic activities include agriculture and animal husbandry (chicken, cattle, and produce) and a plant that manufactures radio parts
Coamo is located to the south of the Central Mountain Range. It is bordered on the north by Orocovis and Barranquitas, on the south by Santa Isabel and Salinas, on the east by Aibonito and Salinas, and on the west by Villalba and Juana Díaz. The highest elevations are in the northern part of the town, including Mounts Pulguillas and Pico at 2,756 and 2,592 feet (840 and 790 meters ), respectively, and the Santini Ridge. There are lower elevations towards the center of the municipality, such as mounts Presidio and Santa Ana, both 460 meters (1,509 feet) high; Pelagatos hill, 1,148 feet (350 meters), and mounts Mesa and Winter. Other elevations include the border mountains of El Malo, at 3,018 feet (920 meters); Petronila, 2,132 feet (650 meters); and Cariblanco, 1,824 feet (556 meters), which are located on the border between Coamo and Orocovis, Villalba, and Salinas respectively. The flatter areas of the town are no higher than 656 feet (200 meters) above sea level.
The hydrography of the town is based on the Coamo River, which springs from Pulguillas Ward and runs for 35 kilometers (22 miles) to empty into the Caribbean Sea. Its tributaries are the Cuyón and De la Mina rivers. Tributaries of the Cuyón are: the Helechal, Obispo, Cerrillos, De los Panes, Montería, and Falsa brooks; and the Pasto River is a tributary of the De la Mina River. Another important water source is the Toa Vaca River, which originates in Hayales Ward and is a tributary of the Jacaguas River, for which in turn the La Cotorra brook is a tributary . The Descalabrado River (which springs from Pedro García Ward) and the Jueyes River, which originates at the border between Salinas and Coamo, also run through the municipality.
Some historians say that the name “Coamo” is derived from a Taino word meaning an “extended plain.” The name was first applied to the largest river in the region, and was later used for the municipality. Others contend that there was an Indian chief or cacique named Coamex or Coamey, but there is no evidence of this.
In 1579 the Spanish government decided to establish a settlement in this southern region of the island and designated Captain Blas de Illescas to lead this effort. By 1582, according to the reports of Governor Juan de Melgarejo, there were twenty Spaniards living in Coamo. At the end of the century there were ten dwellings, perhaps all of which were huts or bohíos, which surrounded a church, also built of straw. Early economic life centered on the sale of leather and tallow, as well as the cultivation of ginger. Coffee was introduce in the mid-18th century. In 1778, by royal decree Coamo was granted the title of chartered town, although the prerogatives of being such were not exercised until 1798.
In 1824, Villa Coamo had 2,000 residents, 377 houses and 17 bohíos. The town proper had 83 houses, a public school and a private school. As the population grew, new population centers transformed the area, and parts of Coamo were separated to establish other towns, such as Barranquitas (1804), Orocovis (1825), Aibonito (1824), Santa Isabel (1841), and Salinas (1851). Meanwhile, cattle and dairy farming, coffee, tobacco and produce were the most important economic sectors, which sugar cane was a secondary activity. Eventually coffee displaced cattle ranching. In 1866, the construction of the central highway stimulated the economy. At the end of the 19th century, Coamo had 500 houses made of rubble and brick masonry and wood, one hundred bohíos and about 15,000 residents.
The Coamo flag is comprised of three stripes. The red, yellow, and black colors are derived from the municipal coat of arms. The red color is the color of martyrs and refers to the fact that Saint Blaise was decapitated. The golden yellow color alludes to the charity exercised by Saint Blaise and the parched plains of Coamo. The black color refers to the trials and tribulations endured by Coamo.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms has four quarters. The upper left and lower right quarters bear a golden bishop’s mitre on a red field, symbolizing the bishops Saint Blaise, Friar Manuel de Mercado, and Friar Diego de Salamanca. The lower left quarter bears a bull on a yellow field and the upper right quarter shows a riding horse on a yellow field. The yellow color is reminiscent of the fields of Coamo during the dry season. A silver band surrounds the quarters, bearing three belfries, two flames, two crosses whose four arms are terminated with three-pointed petals, and a roundel with blue and silver wavy stripes. The belfries represent the three original churches of Coamo –San Blas, Altagracia, and Valvanera–; while the flames allude to the festival dedicated to Our Lady of Candlemas. The crosses symbolize the town of the Spanish colonizer Blas de Illescas and the roundel symbolizes the thermal waters of the Coamo Baths. The coat of arms is crowned with a castle with four turrets symbolizing its status of villa or chartered town.
Places of Interest
• Old Coamo Cemetery
• Coamo Baths
• City Hall
• Efrén Bernier residence (Casa Blanca)
• José Ignacio Quintón residence
• Casino de Coamo (Spanish Social Club)
• Our Lady of Valvanera Hermitage
• Baptist church
• San Blas de Illescas Catholic church
• Mount Pico lookout point
• Coamo Historical Museum
• Luis Muñoz Rivera town square
• General Méndez Vigo Bridge
• Padre Iñigo Bridge
• Scenic route
• Sugar cane mills
• Pan American bicycle rink
María Teresa Babín – college professor, writer, and founder of the Puerto Rican Studies Department at Lehman College in Nueva York. Babín was a tireless collaborator with the journals and newspapers for which she wrote on cultural affairs. She was elected Humanist of the Year by the Puerto Rico Endowment for the Arts (1988). Her publications include El mundo poético de Federico García Lorca (1954), La situación de Puerto Rico (1965), El lenguaje, protagonista de nuestra literatura (1981), among others.
Bobby Capó – singer, composer, television director, and government official. Capó had great success as a singer in Latin America and the Untied States, as well as participating in several movies of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. Some of his most famous and world-renowned songs are Piel canela, Luna de miel en Puerto Rico, Soñando con Puerto Rico, Juguete, etc.
Pedro Miguel Caratini – professional baseball player. Caratini was a prominent baseball player in the 1930s, also playing in the Dominican Republic, where he is buried. He is in the Hall of Fame of both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Francisco Coimbre – professional baseball player. Coimbre began to play baseball in the 1920s and was one of the pioneers of the professional baseball league in 1938. He played in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, and the United States.
José Luis Martínez-Picó – engineer and college professor who obtained a doctorate abroad. Martínez-Picó founded and directed the Chemistry Department at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez (1948 – 1958). He held the position of dean many times and was chancellor between 1986 and 1990.
Félix Matos-Bernier – journalist and poet. Matos founded the newspapers El Cautivo (1895) and La Nueva Idea (1895). He also published literary works such as Recuerdos Benditos in 1895, Puesta de sol in 1903 and Isla de arte in 1907.
Rafael Picó-Santiago – geographer and college professor. Picó earned his doctorate in geography and planning at Clark University. He was chairman of the planning board from 1942 to 1955; Secretary of the Treasury (1955 – 1957); president of the Government Development Bank (1958 – 1964); and a senator in the Puerto Rico legislature from 1965 to 1969. His book Geografía de Puerto Rico (1954) is a frequently used reference.
Juan Rivera-Ortiz – teacher and political figure. Rivera-Ortiz was mayor of Coamo for two four-year terms as well as a senator for the Guayama district from 1980 to 1991.
Rafael Rivera-Zayas -public speaker, attorney, and journalist. Rivera-Zayas was a representative in the Puerto Rico Legislature from 1932 to 1936 and presided the Puerto Rico Atheneum in 1933. As a journalist he wrote about literary and political topics.
José Seda – sports figure. Seda was a professional baseball players and one of the founders of the professional league in 1938. He also played in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.
• Patron saint’s festival – February
• San Blas sports festival – February
• Crafts festival in honor of the flag – June
• Coamo Anniversary – July
• Concert and lighting of the Christmas tree – December
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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