The municipality of Lajas is situated in the southwest part of Puerto Rico. It is bordered on the north by thetown of San Germán and slightly by Sabana Grande on the northeast, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, on the east by Guánica and on the west by Cabo Rojo. It is also known as the «Cardinal City» and «The rock throwers.» Its territory covers approximately 156 square kilometers (60 square miles). It is one of the sixteen largest municipalities in terms of size. It consists of eleven sectors, which are: Candelaria, Costa, Lajas, Lajas Arriba, La Plata, Llanos, Palmarejo, Parguera, París, Sabana Yeguas and Santa Rosa. According to the 2000 Census, its population was 26,261. The patron saint is the Virgin of Candelaria, whose festival is held in February. The municipality has become a favored site for tourism, both for locals and foreigners. La Parguera is a tourism center that includes the phosphorescent bay and mangrove canals.
In recent years, the population of the town has grown significantly as new roads and facilities, both public and commercial, have been developed. The educational system includes 14 schools. The sectors of the economy that generate the most employment are manufacturing, retail and hospitality. Agriculture plays a main role in this municipality, reporting $3,004,635 in sales of crops produced in 2002. Among the crops are vegetables, melons, pineapples and sugar cane. Lajas is the leading producer of sheep and also ranks high in the production and sale of cattle. In 2002, this industry reported $2,422,460 in sales. Fishing is also a significant economic activity in Lajas, especially in La Parguera, which is one of the most productive fishing zones.
Lajas has also been recognized as one of the cleanest towns in Puerto Rico. It received this honor in 2004. It is also the home town of the first Puerto Rican Catholic cardinal, Luis Aponte Martínez. That is why the municipality is called the «Cardinal City.»
Lajas is part of the southern coastal plain. Part of the municipality is located in the Lajas Valley and part is in the southwestern hills. Its territory extends between two parallel lines of hills: the Santa Marta hills (north) and the Bermeja ridge (south). The rest of its territory is made up of the Lajas Valley, which is characterized by its artificial irrigation system, due to its lack of rivers. This project was established in the middle of the 20th century to promote agriculture in the region. It runs from the dam on the Loco River (Yauco) to the entrance of the valley and runs the length of the northern border of the valley along the base of the hills to Boquerón. Several lateral branches from this line provide water to land located south of the canal. The rest of the town benefits from the Loco and Guanajibo Rivers.
Among the municipality’s most important natural areas are the Cartagena Lagoon and La Parguera Nature Reserves. The first is located on the western border of the municipality along Cabo Rojo. It is one of the few freshwater lagoons in Puerto Rico and serves as a permanent or temporary home to more than 150 varieties of birds and plants. The second was designated a nature reserve in 1979 and is recognized for having one of the most unique marine and coastal ecosystems in Puerto Rico. Among the various, valuable resources of the zone are its mangrove swamp, its salt flats, the coastal topography of semi-arid vegetation, coral reefs, and keys and islets that give the reserve its great ecological value. Without doubt, however, it is most known for its bioluminescent waters that give the phosphorescent bay its name.
During the second half of the 18th century, there was a settlement in the southern part of San Germán. In 1808, the San Germán city council named Teodoro Jácome Pagán the mayor of Hermandad and, two years later, mayor of the settlement of Lajas. At that time, it was a small village on rocky soil near a spring. The residents called it Lajas because the land was full of smooth and flat limestone rocks that were called «lajas.»
In 1874, the residents of Lajas asked the Spanish government to form a town. Eight years later, on April 15, 1882, the residents of the town renewed their request to be separated from San Germán. They stated that their request complied with the Municipal Law of 1878 on the requirements for establishing a municipality. In that era, Lajas had a population of more than 2,000 people, had a territory proportional to the population and could support the obligatory costs of a municipality. The town was finally established on July 1, 1883. The muncipality was composed of eleven sectors: Lajas Pueblo, Santa Rosa, Lajas Arriba, La Plata, Palmarejo, París, Llanos, Candelaria, Sabana Yeguas, Costa and La Parguera. It had a population of 6,238 residents.
In 1907, Juan Cancio Ortiz founded the Institute for Agriculture, Arts and Trades in the Palmarejo sector. The institute was eventually moved to the neighboring city of San Germán and was transformed into the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. Later, in 1946, the Lajas Center for Research and Development (CID for its initials in Spanish) was established for the purpose of conducting research into the development of agriculture in the Lajas Valley. It is one of six centers under the administration of the University of Puerto Rico’s Experimental Agriculture Station.
In 1999, the government of Puerto Rico created the Lajas Valley Agricultural Reserve, which covers several municipalities, including Lajas, to develop the cultivation of some 43,000 cuerdas of land. Today, approximately 150 cuerdas are under cultivation. The economy is also based on raising livestock, manufacturing textiles and tourism.
The Lajas flag has three horizontal bands of green, white and yellow. A fourth band, white in color, crosses from the top to bottom, two-fifths of the distance from the edge, to form a cross with the other white band. The green band symbolizes the Lajas Valley and its agriculture. The yellow color signifies the richness of the soil. The crossed white bands, meanwhile, represent the union of all Lajas residents in a town of love, peace and friendship. The cross, created by the two crossing bands, alludes to the religiousness of the town, faith in God and belief in a divine. In the center of the cross is a pineapple. The pineapple is surrounded by eleven gold stars that represent the eleven sectors of Lajas.
Coat of arms
The coat of arms has a gold base with a green band crossing it diagonally from the upper left to the lower right. The gold color embodies the richness of the Lajas soil and the green represents the Lajas Valley. On each end, the band is adorned with a pineapple and in the center is a sea shell. The pineapple represents the regional fruit and the shell is an emblem of the founder of the town, Teodoro Jácome Pagán. In the upper left of the coat of arms is a red cardinal’s hat and in the lower left is a red anchor with a green rope attached to it. The hat is the one in which Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez was sworn in and the anchor represents the coasts and the tourism jewel of La Parguera. In the upper part of the coat of arms is a walled crown that is the emblem of an autonomous municipality. Its windows and doors indicate the eleven sectors of the municipality. Under the coat of arms is the inscription «Cardinal City,» as a sign of the honor that falls to Lajas as the birthplace of the first Puerto Rican to be given that title.
Places of Interest
• Former train station
• Former silver mines
• Boquerón State Forest
• Monument to Lajas soldiers
• Rosada Beach
• Ceiba Acostada Plaza
• Cartagena Lagoon Nature Reserve
• La Parguera Nature Reserve
• Ruins of the pineapple packing factory
Luis Aponte Martínez – first Puerto Rican cardinal.
José «Purro» Basora – boxer and medal winner in the 1938 Olympics in Panama.
Juan Cancio Ortiz de la Renta y Lugo – civic leader, politician, businessman, philanthropist, humanist and farmer. Founded the Institute of Agriculture, Arts and Trades.
Ulises Casiano Vargas – first bishop of the Mayaguez diocese.
Jaime Frank Paganacc – lawyer, writer, judge and sportsman.
Teodoro Jácome Pagán – founder of the town of Lajas.
Jacobo Morales – cinematographer, playwright, writer and poet. His most outstanding work is the feature film Lo que le pasó a Santiago, which was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film in 1990.
Mario Pagán Irizarry – educator, poet and historian.
Bonocio Tió – journalist and poet. Husband of Lola Rodríguez, with whom he was forced into exile because of their liberal ideas.
Agriculture Fair – June
Kite Festival – March
Festival de Pesca de la Aguja Azul – May
Pineapple Festival – May
Fiesta de San Pedro Festival – June
Patron Saint Festival in honor of the Virgin of Candelaria – February
Christmas Parade and Artisans Fair – December
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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