Hormigueros is located in the western coastal plains of Puerto Rico and measures 28.9 square kilometers (11.16 square miles). It is also known as the “miracle town” and “the pilgrim’s town.” According to the 2000 census, there are 16,614 hormigueños, living in Benavente, Guanajibo, Hormigueros, Hormigueros Pueblo, Jagüitas, and Lavadero wards. The patron saint is Our Lady of Monserrat and the festival in her honor is held on September 8 and is one of the best-attended on the island. That day, many pilgrims flock to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Monserrat, which was built in the 16th century and is one of the most important landmarks in the town. The pilgrims also visit other old buildings, such as the Casa de los Peregrinos (Pilgrim’s Inn).
The municipality”s economy is based on commerce and manufacturing. Manufacturing includes pharmaceuticals, needlework, machinery, and electrical and electronic equipment. There is limited agriculture and cattle and dairy farming. The town formerly grew tobacco, plantains, taniers, sugar cane, and coffee. There were several wooden sugar mills known as trapiches and rum was produced. Central Eureka was founded in 1881, and eventually ground up to 350,000 tons of sugarcane. The central mill closed down in 1979.
Hormigueros is located on the western side of the island, and is bordered on the north by Mayagüez, on the south by Cabo Rojo and San Germán, on the east by San Germán and on the west by Cabo Rojo. The town is located in the western humid mountains and the western valleys. The land runs from a height of 100 meters above sea level (328 feet) on the north, down to the rich alluvial valleys on the south. The entire Jagüitas ward and the northern parts of Guanajibo, Hormigueros, and Lavadero wards are hilly, and near the border with Mayagüez at Los Matos Ridge, the hills are relatively high. On the other hand, all of Benavente ward and the southern areas of Guanajibo, Hormigueros, and Lavadero wards are located in the Guanajibo Valley or the flat areas of the municipality.
The municipality is irrigated by the Guanajibo River, which is on the border with Cabo Rojo, and its tributaries, the Rosario, Seco, and Hondo rivers. The river is also fed by the Maga, Hoya Grande, and De las Lajas brooks, the latter of which in turn receives water from the Mohosa and Grande brooks.
The origin of the name of this town has been subject to debate. Some say that it comes from a Taíno word, horomico, the name of an unidentified river, while others say that it was given to the place because of its topography. The Spanish who came to the area observed that there were elevations in the area that looked somewhat like anthills, and named the valley “valle de los hormigueros,” hormigueros being the word in Spanish for anthill.
The founding of Hormigueros is related to the construction of a shirne dedicated to Our Lady of Monserrat. According to the legends narrated by the chronicler Diego de Torres Vargas, some time between 1630 and 1640, Giraldo González de la Renta was attacked by a bull. Faced with this danger, González de la Renta invoked the name of Our Lady of Monserrat. The bull’s legs collapsed and his forehead touched the ground, as though he were praying. Another legend recounts that one of González de la Renta’s daughters was lost in the hills. She reappeared two weeks later, unhurt. When the girl was asked how she had survived, she said that a “lady” had protected her and taken care of her. González and the villagers interpreted the event as a miracle of Our Lady of Monserrat. In gratitude for both miracles, González de la Renta built a s in her shrine honor.
By 1792, a village had grown up around the hermitage. Many visitors made their way there to pray for divine grace. When González de la Renta became a widower, he took vows so that he could tend to the hermitage. When he died, the hermitage had been raised to the category of parish of San Germán, under the Vicarage of that town. In 1831, Pedro Tomás de Córdova mentions the hermitage and affirms that Hormigueros was a ward of San Germán.
According to some historians, it was not until 1874 that Hormigueros became a town, by recommendation of the provincial assembly. The wards of the town were Benavento, Guanajibo, Hormigueros Pueblo, and Lavadero. Four years later, Jagüitas ward was included. In 1899, the population of the municipality was 3,215. In spite of this, General Guy V. Henry, who was governor of Puerto Rico, ordered the town incorporated into Mayagüez. In 1912, the Puerto Rico legislature passed a law that reinstated Hormigueros as a sovereign municipality with the same wards it had had in 1899. Later, in 1948, the planning board changed the name from of Benavento to Benavente ward.
The flag of Hormigueros has a blue field with a horizontally placed white rhombus, containing a blue rhombus. There is a blue-banded white glove at the center, topped by a white cross. The cross is the symbol of royalty and the rule of Christ on Earth, and is a traditional attribute in the iconography of Our Lady of Monserrat, as both the image of the Virgin and the Child Jesus portray them holding globes.
Coat of arms
The coat of arms is a blue rhombus with a silver border. The Hormigueros Sanctuary of Our Lady of Monserrat is portrayed at the center. The silver border is dotted with ants, as a symbol of the name of the town and the multitudes that visit the Sanctuary. The broken chains are reminiscent of the native son Segundo Ruiz Belvis and his abolitionist and separatist struggles. A three-turreted castle crowns the coat of arms, a symbol of the town;s status of municipality.
Places of Interest
• Our Lady of Monserrat Basilica – The shrine dates from the late 16th century, having been built by Giraldo González de la Renta, in gratitude to Our Lady of Monserrat.
• Pilgrims Inn – a centuries-old inn, it is now being used as a parish house.
• Silva Bridge – a structure that spans the Guanajibo River, located at kilometer 4 on Route 114. Built in 1897, the bridge was built by the Spanish engineer José María Sainz.
• Torréns Bridge – Also known to the townspeople as the iron or red bridge. It is located on Route PR319, kilometer 1.5. It was designed by the Spanish engineer José de Echevarría and was built between 1878 and 1898 by the Belgian company Eugene Rollin.
• Las Plumas Springs – a source of crystal clear water.
• Segundo Ruiz Belvis Mausoleum
• Julita Arenas Theater – the building that houses the Art and Culture Office
Edna Acosta-Belén – writer, professor, and feminist. Editor of the section on the Puerto Rican Diaspora in the Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico.
Edwin Albino Pluges – historian
Mario Cancel – historian
Bobby Cruz- famous singer, band leader, and Protestant minister
Carlos Dalmau – sculptor and carver of wooden saints
Modesta Díaz Segarra – feminist and first woman mayor in Puerto Rico.
Antonio Duvergé Duval – born in Hormigueros in 1807. He was a patriot who played an important role in the struggle for independence in the Dominican Republic.
Mateo Fajardo Cardona – founder of Central Eureka, originally known as Hacienda San José. He was a separatist during Spanish colonial times. The main street bears his name.
Andrés Mangual – painter
Andrés Nazario – painter
Leopoldo Olivencia – painter
Segundo Ruiz Belvis – renowned abolitionist and advocate for the independence of Puerto Rico along with his friend Ramón Emeterio Betances. Ruiz Belvis died in Chile in 1867 and his remains were brought back to his birthplace in 2006.
Luis H. Vega – sculptor and carver of wooden saints and other religious subjects
• Three Kings day Festival – January
• Evening of poetry and music dedicated to love and friendship – February
• Cultural meet – March
• Town anniversary – April
• Celebration honoring Ruiz Belvis – May
• Evening of poetry and music dedicated to mothers – May
• Evening of poetry and music dedicated to fathers – June
• Youth Festival – July
• Patron Saint’s Festival queen selection – August
• Patron Saint’s Festival dedicated to Our Lady of Montserrat – September
• Segundo Ruiz Belvis Marathon – September
• Puerto Rican Culture day – November
• Lighting of the Christmas tree – The first Saturday after Thanksgiving
• Caroling (Aguinaldos) – December
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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