Guayanilla, Puerto Rico

The municipality of Guayanilla was founded in 1833. It is known as the «Land of Agüeybaná» and the «Fishermen’s Village» and its residents are known as the «mare riders.» The patron saint of Guayanilla is the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception.

Guayanilla covers approximately 109.7 square kilometers (42 square miles). The population is 23,072 (2000 Census). Guayanilla is divided into the sectors of Pueblo, Barrero, Boca, Cedro, Consejo, Indios, Jagua-Pasto, Jaguas, Llano, Macaná, Magas, Plata, Quebrada Honda, Quebradas, Rufina and Sierra Baja.

The coast of the municipality is part of the southwestern coast of the island. This zone is considered one of the most important tropical marine areas in the Caribbean.
Previously, the economy of Guayanilla depended on growing and processing sugar cane. Later, this was replaced by industries such as petrochemicals. Today, the municipality has a variety of small factories.


Guayanilla is bordered on the north by the municipality of Adjuntas, on the east by Peñuelas, on the south by the Caribbean Sea and on the west by the municipality of Yauco. Geographically, it is part of the western region of the southern coastal plain. To the north, on its border with Adjuntas, the region is mountainous. Elevations there in the Pasto and Jagua Pasto sectors reach 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level.

The municipality’s hydrological system consists of the following bodies of water: the Guayanilla, Macaná and Yauco Rivers. The Guayanilla River originates in the Jagua Pasto sector and runs some 23 kilometers (14.5 miles) and empties into the Caribbean Sea at Guayanilla bay. Tributaries of this river are Las Canales, Guamá, Grande de Sierra Baja, Rodadero, Limón, Motete and Consejo streams. The Macaná River is shorter. Its tributary is Los Cedros stream. The Yauco River flows through the Boca sector and empties into the sea at the Port of Guayanilla, where the land is swampy.

Located in the coastal zone of this municipality is Vaquero point, near the border with the municipality of Guánica. To the east are the Ventana, Verraco and Pepillo Points and the Guayanilla bay port. From the coast, the keys of Mata Redonda and María Langa can be seen. Guayanilla also has a cave called Convento, through which the Cedros stream runs.

Among its natural resources is the Guilarte forest, which occupies part of the northern lands of Guayanilla. Like many coastal areas, Guayanilla has mangrove swamps. In the area of the port and Guayanilla bay there are 330 cuerdas, or approximately one million square meters, of mangroves, among which the red mangrove is abundant.

The origin and founding of Guayanilla has been debated by various historians, with some saying that its origins lie in the old settlement of Santa María de Guadianilla, founded in 1511 by Captain Miguel del Toro. It is said that this settlement was destroyed by French pirates. Others say that the origin of the town dates to 1756, the year that Yauco was founded, as Guayanilla was then a sector of Yauco. Some say the name comes from a corruption of the Taino word «Guaynia,» the place where the chief Agüeybana lived.

In 1830, there were more residents in Guayanilla than in Yauco and, in 1821, a resident named Narciso Valdés paid the expenses for building a chapel as part of the Yauco parish. The town grew around the chapel. On February 27, 1833, the town was officially founded by order of Governor Miguel de la Torre. Among the founders were Catalans, Venezuelans, French and island-born persons. Some say that the Spaniards who lived there gave it the name Guadianilla for the river of the same name in Spain. Later, it was changed to Guayanilla.

The towns first leader was Lieutenant Colonel Ramón González, a Venezuelan. The construction of the church began in 1831 and was completed in 1840, and the following year it was blessed and officially devoted to the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

In the 1830s. Guayanilla consisted of the sectors of Barrero, Boca, Consejo, Guayanilla Pueblo, Indios, Jagua Alta, Jagua Baja, Llano, Maga, Macaná, Pasto, Plantaje, Playa, Quebrada, Quebrada Honda and Sierra Baja.

In 1856, decades after it was founded, the municipality was severely affected by a deadly cholera epidemic. The effects were such that residents had to create cemeteries on various plantations. From its beginnings, Guayanilla’s economy was based on agriculture, the cultivation of sugar cane, coffee, and the commerce that took place at the port. In 1849, there were nineteen cane presses, the majority of them iron. In 1877, there were six steam-powered mills and two oxen-powered ones. The cultivation of coffee expanded greatly during the last decades of the 19th century. Another factor that favored the municipal economy was the availability of the port for commerce, and on February 10, 1871, a local customs office was established there.

In 1898, Guayanilla had five sugar mills with 579 cuerdas of land; 2,945 cuerdas of land dedicated to growing coffee; 18,023 cuerdas of pasture land; and another 107 cuerdas for other crops. There were also 5,352 head of cattle. Years later, there was a central sugar mill called Rufina, which produced 17,000 sacks of sugar a year. In 1974, 62,263 tons of cane were harvested and 5,247 tons of sugar were produced.

In 1902, the Puerto Rico legislative assembly approved a law that annexed Guayanilla and its sectors to the municipality of Ponce. This changed in 1905 when the law was repealed and Guayanilla was reinstituted as an independent municipality. At that time, Guayanilla consisted of the following sectors: Barrero, Boca, Consejo, Guayanilla Pueblo, Indios, Jagua de Pasto, Llano, Magas, Macaná, Pasto, Playa, Quebrada, Quebrada Honda and Sierra Baja.

In 1919, the sector of Cedro de Peñuelas was created and in 1935 the Rufina sector. The Planning Board prepared the map of the municipality of Guayanilla in 1948, annexing parts of the sectors of Indios, Jaguas, Magas, Quebrada and Rufina to the urban zone.

From 1960 to 1980, the municipality played an important role in the industrial development of the island. At that time, a petrochemical complex was created that greatly influenced the economic activity of the town. CORCO, P.P.G. Industries (Caribbean) and Union Carbide Caribbean provided many jobs for Guayanilla and neighboring municipalities. Also, the port has helped the municipality retain its fishing industry.


The flag  of Guayanilla contains the main colors of the coat of arms. It consists of three horizontal bands of equal width: white on top, yellow in the center, and green below.

Coat of arms
The municipality’s coat of arms  is divided into four sections: in the first and fourth sections, a chapel appears on the green background, accompanied by four houses, two on each side, all of them silver in color and outlined in red and positioned above a white band. On the first section, an eight-pointed silver star overlooks the chapel. On the second and third sections, which are silver in color, appears a raging silver lion. The first lion holds a red flower in his right paw. The second one holds an arrow of the same color in both paws with the gold-tipped point upwards and an azure fletching. The coat of arms is surrounded by two sugar cane stalks with their leaves crossed at the bottom, drawn in conventional heraldic style.

The chapel and the houses represent a primitive Christian town in Puerto Rico, specifically Santa María de Guadianilla or «San Germán, el Nuevo,» which was established on the banks of the Guayanilla River in the middle of the 16th century. The star symbolizes the Virgin Mary, patron saint of the municipality. The repetition of this theme, without the star, in the final panel, alludes to the official founding of Guayanilla in 1833.

The lion, with slight alterations, is taken from the coat of arms of the Ortiz de Almendralejo family of Extremadura, the ancestry of Rodrigo Ortiz Vélez, mayor and defender of Santa María de Guadianilla and founder of San Germán de las Lomas de Santa Marta, the site to which the original settlement was moved. It also alludes to the brave and intrepid defense of the town mounted by Rodrigo Ortiz Vélez and his men against the attacks and attempted invasions by French pirates and the Caribe Indians. The first victory is symbolized by the fleur de lis and the second by the arrow, which in this case represents combat.

The ancient crown shown on the red background in the center symbolizes the Taino chief Agüeybaná, the main leader of the indigenous people of Boriquén, whose territory was located in the region of Guaynía. The blue anchor on a field of gold represents the beach and port of Guayanilla. The crown wall is the insignia that identifies the coat of arms of a municipality. The sugar cane stalks indicate that Guayanilla is located in a cane growing region and alludes to the importance of the sugar industry in the town’s history.

Places of Interest

• Mario Mercado Castle
• Gold Falls
• El Convento Spring Caves
• Guilarte Forest
• Emajagua Beach
• La Ventana Beach
• Tamarindo Beach
• Ruins of the San Francisco Central Sugar Mill

Illustrious Citizens

Bolívar Pagán Lucca Journalist, essayist, historiographer, senator and resident commissioner in Washington. He was a member of the island’s Board of Elections and the Public Service Commission; senator for the Socialist Party on three occasions (1933, 1944 and 1948); vice president of the senate and resident commissioner in Washington (1939-1945).

Sergio Romanacce Journalist, member of the International Academy of History in Paris and the Hispano-American Academy in Cádiz.

Paula Collazo de Carranza (Poliana) Poet and journalist and wife of Mexican poet and journalist Joaquín Carranza. She developed her poetry in the United States, where she emigrated with her family.

Jaime Ruíz Escobar Playwright and poet.

Myrna Rodríguez Painter and art critic. Has taught at Inter-American University and was an art critic for the now defunct daily newspaper The San Juan Star.


Youth Festival – May
Beach Festival – May
Cross Festival – May
Shore Fishing Festival and Triathlon – June
Virgen del Carmen Festival – June
Seafood Festival – June
Farazo Festival – July
Town Carnival – July
International Women’s Marathon – November
Patron Saint Festival – December


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