Maricao, Puerto Rico

Maricao is located in the west central region of Puerto Rico and measures 95 square kilometers (36.7 square miles). It is known as the «town of the Indian villages,» the «town of the Monte del Estado,» the «town of legend and romance» and the «land of coffee.» According to the 2000 census there are 6,449 maricaeños,living in Bucarabones, Indiera Alta, Indiera Baja, Indiera Fría, Maricao Afuera, Maricao Pueblo, and Montoso wards. The patron saint is Saint John the Baptist.

The economy of the municipality is based on agriculture. The main crop is coffee, and the town is known for producing the best quality coffee in Puerto Rico. The town became renowned in the late 19th century when the Sucesión Espinosa participated in an agricultural fair in Barcelona in 1899. This family from Bucarabones ward was awarded first prize for the best quality coffee, winning over more than 20 participating countries. The poet Luis Llorens Torres, who lived in this town for awhile, praised this coffee in one of his poems by saying con café de Maricao el diablo se desveló («drinking Maricao coffee the Devil couldn’t get to sleep»).


The town is located in the central mountain range, in the region of the humid mountains of the West. It is bordered on the north by Mayagüez, Las Marías, and Lares; on the south by San Germán, Sabana Grande, and Yauco; on the east by Lares and Yauco; and on the west by Mayagüez and San Germán. The terrain is hilly to mountainous; some of the highest elevations being the Urayoán mountains; the Cerro Gordo knoll. at 2,897 feet (883 meters); the Montoso peak, at 1,752 feet (534 meters); and Mount Las Mulas, at 1,640 feet (500 meters) above sea level.

The hydrographical system is comprised of the Rosario River and its tributaries, the Maricao and Prieto rivers and the Palma brook, all (including theRosario River) are tributaries of the Guanajibo River and are located in Montoso and Maricao Afuera wards. Other components of the system are: theGuabá River (Indiera Baja) and its tributaries, the Bonelli and Bucarabones rivers, which in turn are fed by the Lajas River and the Josefa brook, respectively; and the Toro River and its tributary, the Sapo River, which springs from Indiera Alta ward. All of these water bodies (including the GuabáRiver) are part of the Rio Grande de Añasco river basin. Other bodies include the Prieto and Toro reservoirs. The former has a drainage basin measuring 25 square kilometers (9.6 square miles) and is located on the border of the municipalities of Lares and Maricao. The Toro Reservoir was built in the Toro river basin, in Indiera Alta ward, and has a drainage basin measuring 9 square kilometers (3.3 square miles).

The Maricao State Forest is located in Maricao, Sabana Grande, and San Germán. The forest has an area of 4,159 hectares (10,273 acres) and ranges in elevation from 492 feet (150 meters) to 2,897 feet (883 meters) above sea level. The highest elevation is the Cerro Gordo knoll. It is estimated that annual rainfall in the forest averages about 94 inches (2,388 mm). The vegetation is said to be among the most varied among the forests of Puerto Rico, where the doncella variety of the maricao or locust tree, Byrsonima spicata, is a salient feautre. The maricao is a mid-sized perennial, with attractive yellow flowers; its juicy edible fruit is somewhat bitter. The maricao grows in Guaynabo and Trujillo Alto and the forests of Maricao and Susúa. Other varieties of this tree are the nance tree (Byrsonima crassifolia) and the maricao verde or niño de cota (Laplacea portoricensis), a native species for which there is no common name in English. The forest is also the habitat for more than 40 bird species, and it is believed that the hutia (Plagiodontia portoricensis), a native rodent still lives there, although it is considered to have become extinct many years ago.

The origin of the name Maricao has been the subject of debate. Some scholars affirm that it is derived from the name of an indigenous chief who lived in the area, while others say that it honors a Spanish soldier of the time. Still other researchers attribute the name to the name of a tree that is very common in the area. There is a legend of a young and beautiful Taino girl who fell passionately in love with a young Spanish military officer. He called her María. It is said that María warned her loved one of an attack that had been planned by the Tainos and he reported this to the Spaniards, who decided to attack first and killed a large number of indigenous warriors. María was captured by her people, tied to a tree, and tortured to death. The tree was given the name Maricao, a word formed by suppressing the last «a» in María and adding the suffix -cao, which in the indigenous language meant sacrifice or martyrdom. According to this legend Maricao means María’s sacrifice.

During Spanish colonization, the territory of Maricao became a refuge for the Tainos who were escaping from the Spaniards. Its secluded location in the central mountain range made it an ideal hiding place. Evidence of this is that the 1800 census showed that there were about 2,000 «pure Indians.» This is why Maricao has the nickname «town of the Indian villages.»

In the early 1870s several residents of the area decided to petition the Provincial Assembly for the separation of Maricao and its wards from the town of San Germán. The petition was accepted and the town was officially founded in 1874. Three years later it became a municipality. The town developed so quickly that by the 1880s, their were 6,752 residents, living in 257 houses and 561 bohíos, or straw huts. Maricao continued to be an agricultural town, specializing in coffee and citrus fruit. By the early 20th century the population had increased to 8,312. By 1940, however, the population had decreased to 7,724 and to this day the population has not reached the level it had at the beginning of the 20th century. Reasons for this decline in population may be the town’s isolation from the principal roads and the waning position of agriculture in the modern Puerto Rican economy.


The Maricao flag  has the same colors and meaning as the municipal coat of arms. A three-pointed zigzag yellow band runs across a green field. The green color alludes to the vegetation, while the zigzag band refers to the mountains in the municipality.

Coat of arms
The town coat of arms  is divided into three parts. The upper and lower parts have white fields adorned with three flowering branches of the maricao tree. These refer to the name of the municipality. The center is comprised of a green chevron bearing five indigenous bohíos or indigenous huts, as a symbol of the Taino residents of the region. The chevron represents the mountains of the region. The coffee bush branches that surround the shield represent Maricao being located in the coffee-growing area of Puerto Rico. The coat of arms is crowned by the turreted castle that symbolizes the status of municipality.

Places of interest

· Alfonso Castas Fornés recreational area

· Monte del Estado recreational and camping area

· Maricao State Forest

· Indian Cave (Indiera Alta ward)

· Saint John the Baptist Grotto

· Delicias Hacienda

· La Juanita Hacienda

· Prieto Lake

· Monte del Estado ecological park

· Luis Muñoz Rivera town square

· Curet Falls

· Stone Tower

· Las Tumbas recreational park

· Maricao fishery

· La Bambúa recreational area

Illustrious citizens

Virgilio Brunet-Maldonado – Public speaker, educator, attorney. Brunet was president of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association. He was one of the drafters of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Constitution between 1951 and 1952.

Judith Seda-Matos – First woman justice of the peace between 1936 and 1941.

Francisco Vicente – Pharmacist, attorney, and educator. Vicente was a founder and president of the Puerto Rico Teachers Association.


  • End of coffee harvest festival – February
  • Patron saints festival in honor of St. John the Baptist – June
  • Homage to Mothers – May
  • Youth Festival – July
  • New Year’s Eve – December


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