Contrary to popular belief among Puerto Ricans, Florida is not the smallest municipality on the island. Comprising 39.4 square kilometers (15.2 mi2), Florida is larger than Cataño, which is, indeed, the smallest town in Puerto Rico. Florida is also known as the “Tierra del Río Encantado,” the “Tierra de los Mogotes,” and the “Pueblo de la Piña Cayenalisa” [The Land of the Enchanted River, Karst Country, the Cayenalisa Pineapple Town]. According to the 2000 census, its population is 12,367. Florida is the only municipality composed of one single barrio, Florida Adentro. Its patron saint is Nuestra Señora de la Merced [Our Lady of Mercy], whose festival is held during the last week of September.
Florida, the “baby of the family” among the municipalities in Puerto Rico, currently boasts an economy featuring the construction, retail sales, social services, and health care sectors. Major crops harvested by the agricultural sector include coffee and produce, particularly pineapples, plantains, and bananas. The manufacturing industry in Florida includes rubber and plastic products.
Located between the northern coast of the island and the Cordillera Central mountain range, the municipality of Florida lies north of Ciales, south of Barceloneta, east of Arecibo, and west of Manatí. The town is part of the northern coastal plain and the northern karst zone. Its topography is moderately elevated, with hills ranging from 200 to 500 meters (656 to 1,640 feet) over sea level. These elevations are made up of the haystack-shaped mogotes, or limestone hills, that are characteristic of karst country. One of the highest peaks, Los Selgas, provides a view of the entire municipality of Florida.
The geological formation of this region allows the rain to drain naturally into underground water conduits or aquifers. The terrain is therefore full of sinkholes and caves, most notably the spectacular cave system through which flows the Río Encantado, the longest subterranean river in Puerto Rico. Two of Florida’s caves — Río Encantado and Escalera — are deep and damp, with easy access through their wide entrance openings. Another well-known cave is Román, which has three caverns in its interior, with a stream of water running through two of them. Other caves include Miró and Juana Gómez.
The name “Florida” dates back to the 19th century and refers to the flowering plants and other vegetation that were so abundant in the region — in particular, the flowering of the coffee plantations. Originally, this municipality was known as Florida Afuera, a barrio ofManatí. In 1881, Florida became part of the newly created municipality of Barceloneta. Not until 1971 did Florida split off from Barceloneta to become an independent municipality.
There is evidence that this zone was inhabited by Taínos before the Spanish Conquest, as seen in the cave paintings and the indigenous artifacts and utensils that have been found. In the 16th century, haciendas and cattle ranches began to be established. The products of these enterprises, particularly leather and skins, were smuggled from the nearby ports.
One of the earliest written references to the town of Florida is found in a work by Manuel Ubeda y Delgado, La Isla de Puerto Rico, Estudio Histórico, Geográfico y Estadístico, published around 1878. Florida Adentro is mentioned there as a rural zone of the town of Manatí. In 1881, the barrios of Florida Adentro and Florida Afuera, along with Garrochales, Palmas Altas, and Manatí Abajo, became part of the municipality of Barceloneta.
Even though Florida was originally part of the town of Manatí, it was from Manatí that the impetus came to convert Florida into a town in its own right. As the barrio’s population grew, the town council decided to split it into two parts. The southern tip of Florida was named Florida Adentro [Inner Florida] and the northern part was called Florida Afuera [Outer Florida]. Some time later, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Mercy was built on a plot of land donated by Manuel Cintrón. A small settlement known by the name of Yanes soon sprang up around the chapel.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the barrio’s population growth was slow. Around the middle of the 20th century, the House of Representatives promoted a bill to make Florida Adentro an independent municipality (Law No. 29 of 1949). This initiative failed. A second attempt was made in 1960 when a similar proposal was presented before the House of Representatives, but it, too, met with failure (Law No. 50 of 1960). Meanwhile, a Committee for the Conversion of Florida into Municipality was formed to forward the cause of municipal independence. The committee’s efforts resulted in the passing of a bill that was to become Law No. 30, dated June 14, 1971, which officially proclaimed that Florida was now a municipality. In 1997, Law No. 104 of August 25 called for the incorporation into Florida of the territories of Pajonal Norte, San Agustín, Tosas, Puerto Blanco, and Riachuelo (Barceloneta); El Hoyo (Arecibo); and La Villamil (Manatí).
The flag of Florida consists of three horizontal stripes. The upper stripe is white and the lower one is green, with a narrow red stripe in the middle. These colors correspond to the same symbolism found in the coat of arms.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms consists of a silver field, with a red (gules) footed cross in the center between two poinsettia branches in bloom (Poinsettia Pulcherrima). The embattled castle wall is outlined in green (vert, or sinople) with waves in sable, outlined in silver. At the top is a gold crown with three towers, with windows in sable, and highlighted in green. The footed cross is taken from the blazon of the Llanes family, a name which, in its modified form of Yanes, occurs in the history and geography of the municipality. The colors, however, have been inverted: the Llanes family shield has a silver cross on a red field. The shield also is a reminder of the Parish of Our Lady of Mercy and of St. John Nepomucene, in Florida; the parish existed before the town of that name came into being. The poinsettia flowers are a reference to the name of Florida. The terrace within the castle wall represents the township’s territory, and the line of waves symbolizes the underground river that runs beneath it, the river called Encantado [Enchanted]. The crown with three turrets is a generic symbol in heraldry for a municipality.
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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