Patillas is located on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico and has an area of 122.4 square kilometers (47.27 miles). It is known as “The Emerald of the South” and “the Melons.” According to the 2000 census there were 20,152 Patillenses living in sixteen wards: Pueblo, Apeadero, Bajo, Cacao Alto, Cacao Bajo, Egozcue, Guardarraya, Jacaboa, Jagual, Mamey, Marín, Mulas, Muñoz Rivera, Pollos, Quebrada Arriba, and Ríos. The patron saint is Holy Christ the Healer and the saint’s festival is held in August. Attractions of the towninclude beaches, forests, and Patillas Lake. The coastal waters and the lake are used by many for recreational fishing.
At present, there are several manufacturing plants in the town and some of the land is used for growing produce. Tourism is an important source of income.
Patillas is located on the southeast coast of the island. It is bordered on the north by Cayey and San Lorenzo and the south by the Caribbean Sea, on the east by Yabucoa and Maunabo, on the west by Arroyo, and on the northeast by Guayama. Although a significant part of the land is mountainous, belonging to the semi-arid southern hills and the eastern humid mountains, most of the land belongs to the southern coastal plains. The area is formed by the consolidation of valleys that descend towards the south from the central mountain range and the Cayey range, and is part of the Ponce–Patillas alluvial plain. The Cayey range runs along the north and the Guardarraya range runs along the east.
The Carite State Forest is located in the mountainous region that extends along the municipalities of Patillas, Cayey, Guayama, and San Lorenzo. The forest has an approximate area of 6,600 cuerdas or about 6,800 acres. The Carite State Forest comprises the most mountainous and northerly parts of Muñoz Rivera and Mulas wards. There are 49 bird species, 15 amphibian species, 12 reptile species, and 7 mammalian species living in the forest. Mounts Honoré and Nuestra Madre at 830 meters (2,723 feet) and 726 meters (2,382 feet), respectively, can be observed between Espino (San Lorenzo) and Muñoz Rivera (Patillas) wards. Other peaks, such as Mount Cabro, at 650 meters (2,132 feet), are located between Mulas ward and the boundary with the municipality of San Lorenzo. Mount Miraflores, at 600 meters (1,968 feet) is located in Muñoz Rivera ward. Mount Yaurel at 686 meters (2,250 feet) is located between Quebrada Arriba and Yaurel (Arroyo) wards, while Mount La Torrecilla, at 490 meters (1,607 feet) is located in Marín ward. Mount Piedra Gorda at 380 meters (1,247 feet) is located towards the center of Patillas, between Jagual and Cacao Alto wards. Peaks in the Guardarraya range, between the towns of Patillas and Maunabo, prominent peaks include Mount Las Avispas (Apeadero) Lebrón (Ríos), Hutón (Jacaboa) and Mala Pascua peaks, the latter of which is located on the border between Patillas and Maunabo. The first three are approximately 450 meters (1,476 feet) high, and the last peak has an elevation of 320 meters (1,050 feet) above sea level. A lower peak called “piedra hueca,” at 170 meters (558 feet) is located fairly close to the coast, between Pollos and Bajo wards.
The rivers that flow through Patillas include the Río Grande de Patillas and the Chico and Jacaboa rivers. The first of these is approximately 22 kilometers (14 miles) long. The tributaries of the Río Grande de Patillas are the Marín River (in turn fed by Colones and Los Barros brooks) and Guano, Quebrada Arriba, Sonadora, Farallón, and Mulas brooks (the latter having as tributaries Hicacos and Hormiga books). The Río Grande springs from Mulas ward and a natural, clear-water pond called Charco Azul is located along its course. This is the only river on the southern coast that is called Río Grande. There is also a Reservoir called Lake Patillas, built on the river in 1914 for irrigation purposes. Today it is also used as a source of drinking water. Species that are suitable for fishing at the lake include shrimp, sunfish, mountain mullet, large mouth bass, and tilapia. However, according to the Department of Natural Resources, the lake is contaminated with schistosomiasis (bilharzia). The Río Grande de Patillas flows into the Caribbean Sea. The Chico River is fed by the Apeadero River and Mamey brook. The waters of the Jacaboa River come from Higüero and Las Avispas brooks. Manglillo, Florida, Campo Libre, Palenque, and Yaurel brooks are also a part of the hydrography of this town.
Traveling from west to east along the coast, there is the Port of Patillas, Point Viento, and Cape Mala Pascua. Point Viento has an area of about 40 hectares (99 acres) of riverbank mangroves. There are red, black, and white mangroves.
Some historians sustain that the Patillas region was already settled by the mid-18th century, but it was not until 1811 that the residents petitioned Governor Salvador Meléndez to officially found the town. The petition was granted, and two years later the parish of San Benito Abad y Santa Bárbara de Patillas was established. The immediate reason for the founding of Patillas was the increase in sugarcane plantations and the establishment of sugar mills in the valley. With a view to developing more land for cultivation, the residents decided to congregate in a town. It is thought that the name Patillas is due to the abundance of watermelons, which are called patilla in southern Spain. The plantation that belonged to Adelina Cintrón was called Patillas, and was the site chosen for the settlement. When it was founded, Patillas was divided into Pueblo (East and West), Apeadero, Bajo, Cacao Alto, Cacao Bajo, Guardarraya, Guayabota, Jacaboa, Jagual, Mamey Alto, Mamey Bajo, Matón, Mulas, Pollos, Real, and Ríos wards.
In 1821, a royal decree allowed the development of a port, to stimulate trade, and the number of inhabitants increased as a result. By the mid-19th century, the population of the town center was about one thousand and there were about 5,000 rural inhabitants. In 1878, Real wards was divided into Real Quebrada Arriba and Real Río Arriba and, eventually the names of the wards were changed to Quebrada Arriba and Río Arriba. In 1910, Matón became Marín and Guayabota, Egozcue; in 1940 Río Arriba became Muñoz Rivera.
Most of the alluvial terrain of the municipality was devoted to sugar cane. Many of the mills were located in Pollos wards and principally belonged to French and Corsican immigrants, such as the Mariani and Río Chico mills, and the Semidey and Catalina plantations, among others. There were also mills at Cacao Alto, Cacao Bajo, Jagual, and Guardarraya wards. By the 20th century, only Río Chico mill was still in operation. It later became the Providencia Sugar Company. Other crops that were cultivated in the region included coffee, tobacco, and oranges, the later which for a time were exported to the United States. According to theDescripción topográfica del Pueblo de Patillas y su Jurisdicción, written by Ulpiano Lizardi on October 10, 1846, Patillas grew rice, corn, plantains, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, cassava, and other produce. Lizardi also says that there were many fruit trees such as avocados, sugar apples, soursops, guavas, mangoes, hicacos or coco plums, as well as plants such as pineapples and grapes.
The flag has for green rectangles that symbolize the valleys and mountains of the town. The golden cross stands for fidelity to Holy Christ the Healer, the patron of the town. At the center of the cross there is an elongated octagonal figure representing an emerald, since the town is known as the “Emerald of the South.”
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms is divided into three bands. The two side bands have four squares each in which a crow with a piece of bread in its beak alternates with a crenellated castle with three windows. The bird symbolizes the bird that saved the life of Saint Benedict the Abbot (patron of the town) from being poisoned by giving him a piece of bread. The castle represents the imprisonment of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of Patillas in its early years, and the devotion to the Holy Trinity. The Cross at the center, personifies Holy Christ the Healer. The two crossed machetes below the Cross stand for the struggles of cane cutters and the origins of the economic development of the town. The watermelon leaf alludes to the fruit that was found in abundance to the west of the town, from which Patillas derives its name. Under the shield there is an inscription that reads Ora et Labora (pray and work), motto of the Benedictines. The turreted castle symbolizes the status of Patillas as a town.
Places of Interest
• Old town square
• Charco Azul recreational area
• Carite State Forest
• Pterocarpus Forest
• Jungle houses
• Los Tres Chorros pond
• Bicentennial Fountain
• San Isidro Plantation
• Patillas Lake
• Patriots’ Promenade
• Escondida Beach (Fishermen’s Hamlet)
• Guardarraya Beach
• Mamanico Square
• Mayors’ Square
Sigfredo Badillo-Rivero – poet and reciter
Francisco Cervoni-Gely – poet, playwright, journalist, and political figure. He was a delegate to the House for Guayama (1911 – 1912). His plays includeLos suegros (1897) and La cruz roja (1928). His poetry was published in newspapers and magazines.
José Dávila Ricci – political figure and journalist. Dávila was a member of the governing board of the Liberal Party (1932 – 1940). He also founded and presided the Puerto Rico Journalism Association (1938). He collaborated with newspapers such as El Mundo and El Universal, and headed La Democracia (1928 – 1932), Puerto Rico Ilustrado (1937 – 1938) and El Imparcial.
Edmundo Disdier – musician and composer. His compositions include Amor soñado, Lo imposible and Reflejo.
Ramón Lebrón-Rodríguez – writer. His works include Esbozo histórico del Derecho Penal (1916) and La vida de un prócer (1954), among others.
Angelita Lind – outstanding athlete. Named the Angel of Puerto Rico by the people of the Island. Winner of three gold medals, 3 silver medals and 1 bronze medal, she participated in 3 Central American and Caribbean Games, 3 Pan American Games and the Olympics in Los Angeles, California.
Jalil Sued-Badillo – historian and teacher.
Emerald of the South Carnival – May
Patron Saint’s Festival – August
Southeast Marathon – November
Wheat Flour Festival – December
Christmas Parade – December
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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