Isabela, Puerto Rico

Isabela is located on the north coast of Puerto Rico and has an area of 144.57 square kilometers (55.82 square miles). It is also known as «the garden of the northwest,» » los gaillos» (the young roosters) and «thetown of quesitos de hoja» (traditional Puerto Rican white string cheese). According to the 2000 census, there are 44,444 Isabelinos living in the wards of Pueblo, Arenales Altos, Arenales Bajos, Bajura, Bejuco, Coto, Galateo Alto, Galateo Bajo, Guayabos, Guerrero, Jobos, Llanadas, Moras, and Planas. The patron saint of Isabela is Saint Anthony of Padua.

Isabela’s present economy is based on tourism and high technology manufacturing industries. Cattle ranching and agriculture contribute moderately, most significantly in Jobos, where cassava root is grown. Fishing is the primary economic activity in the coastal region.


The town of Isabela is in the northern coastal plains. It is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the town of San Sebastián, on the east by Quebradillas, and on the west by Aguadilla and Moca. The southern region is rimmed by the Aymamón Mountains, which are an extension of the Jaicoa range. This mountainous zone includes La Bandera, with an elevation of 1,207 feet (368 meters), La Silla, at 1,106 feet (337 meters), El Sombrero, at 1,083 feet (330 meters), El Indio, at 1,017 feet (310 meters), and El Monte Encantado, at 919 feet (280 meters) above sea level. The the central region rises no higher than 656 feet (200 meters) above sea level, with altitudes becoming increasingly lower toward the coast, where the La Vega (between Galateo Alto and Arenales Altos wards) and Las Cotorras (Galateo Alto) valleys lie. Karst topography features include towers, sinkholes, and caves. There are several caves in Coto ward, including are La Cueva del Tunel, La Cueva del Colo, and La Cueva del Goyo.

Isabela’s hydrographic system is principally comprised of the Guajataca River, which runs along the eastern region of the town, creating the border with Quebradillas. The tributary of this river is a brook called La Sequía. The Los Cedros and Del Toro brooks flow directly into the ocean. The principal coastal features are points Sardinas and Jacinto.

The origins of Isabela can be traced to the establishment of indigenous groups in the region, the most noteworthy of which was the chiefdom of cacique Mabodomaca. Later, a cattle farm called San Antonio de la Tuna was located in this area, on the banks of the Río Guajataca. Around 1725, governor José Antonio de Mendizábal y Azares authorized the organization of a settlement in the area. It is believed that at the time of this settlement the region was already home to a shrine in honor of Saint Anthony and a small outlying village. By the end of the eighteenth century, according to Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra, the town already had a church, more than 60 dwellings, and close to 1,200 inhabitants throughout the territory. Its primary economic activity was cattle ranching.

In about 1818, neighboring communities granted Pablo Corchado the authority to request Governor Salvador Meléndez’s permission to move the population to a new location, closer to the coast, which would be given the name Isabela, in honor of Queen Isabel of Castile. Meléndez approved the request and the new town was founded on May 21, 1819. Sugar cane, coffee, tobacco, and produce were cultivated at the new location.


The flag  of Isabela bears three horizontal stripes of equal width. The upper and lower stripes are yellow and the middle stripe is green.

Coat of arms
The coat of arms  is divided horizontally into three parts. The background of the upper and lower segments is golden yellow, and the central segment is an olive green. The golden color represents the Taino Indians who inhabited the region and utilized gold. The green symbolizes the Arcaico and Ignerí Indians, indigenous groups who preceded the Taínos. The top section of the coat of arms bears two fighting cocks, alluding to bravery. In the center section is a bell flanked by two prickly pear cactus plants. These characterize the ancient hermitage of Saint Anthony of Padua. The bottom section bears the figure of a horse, depicting Isabela’s famous paso fino horses and the rich ranching heritage of the region. The coat of arms is crowned by a castle with three turrets, symbol of the status as a town.

Places of Interest

• Guajataca State Forest
• Cara del Indio (Limestone sculpture resembling an indigenous man’s face)
• Cara del Indio – Pastillo Beach
• El Brujo natural pool
• Jacinto natural pool
• Sculpture of Chief Mabodamaca
• Saint Anthony of Padua Church
• Manuel Corchado y Juarbe recreational plaza
• Guajataca Square
• Jobos Beach
• Montones Beach
• Sardinera Beach
• Shacks Beach
• Ruins of the Saint Anthony de la Tuna shrine
• Guajataca Tunnel
• City Hall,
• Parish house

Illustrious Citizens

Manuel Corchado y Juarbe – lawyer, abolitionist, and writer. He was president of the Liberal Reformist Party and the Puerto Rico Atheneum. He publised poetry, essays, and plays. His most renowned works include a book of poetry, Un beso (1881), an essay, Las barricadas (1870), and a play, El capitán Correa.

Noel Estrada – musician and composer. Author of the famous song, En mi Viejo San Juan.

Vicente Géigel-Polanco – lawyer, poet, essayist, and journalist. He contributed work to such newspapers such as El Imparcial, La Democracia, El Mundo, and Puerto Rico Ilustrado, among others, and he was director of el Diario de Puerto Rico. He was president of the Puerto Rico Atheneum (1939 – 1941) and member of the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature and the Puerto Rican Academy of History. Géigel was Attorney General of Puerto Rico and director of the Division of Economic and Social Research of the Department of Labor, as well as a university professor. He was a member of the Liberal Party, the Popular Democratic Party (by which he was elected senator at large in 1940 and 1944) and a member of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Among his writings are a book of poetry, Canto al amor infinito (1962) and the prose piece El despertar de un pueblo (1942).

Esther M. Melón – university professor and writer of numerous literary works.

Santiago Polanco-Abreu – born in Bayamón, raised in Isabela. Member of the House of Representatives (1948 -1964), over which he presided from 1963 to 1964. He was a delegate of the Constituent Assembly (1951), resident commissioner in Washington (1965 –1969), and Popular Democratic Party candidate for governor in 1968. Journalist, essayist, and poet.

• Three Kings day – January
• Isabela Cock Fight Festival – February
• Textile Festival – May
• Patron Saint Anthony of Padua Festival – June
• Holy Innocents’ Day– December
• Caroling «Escuadrón» (Marina) – December
• Caroling «Siempreviva» (Marina) – January


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