Penuelas, Puerto Rico

Peñuelas is located on the south coast of the Island. It is known as «The Valley of the Flamboyan Trees» and «The capital of the Güiro.» According to the 2000 census, there are 26,719 peñolanos. Its wards are Barreal, Coto, Cuebas, Encarnación, Jaguas, Macaná, Peñuelas Pueblo, Quebrada Ceiba, Rucio, Santo Domingo, Tallaboa Alta, Tallaboa Poniente, and Tallaboa Saliente. The patron saint is Holy Christ the Healer and the festivities held in his honor are held in September. There are also musical festivals during the summer months.

Currently, Peñuelas has 16 educational institutions, a diagnosis and treatment center, postal and telephone services, radio stations, as well as primary and secondary roads. The economy is based mainly on coffee, produce, cattle, and fishing. Although during the 1950s this town was considered an important center for the petrochemical industry, the industrialization process has stagnated.


Peñuelas is bordered by Adjuntas to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the south, Ponce to the east, and Guayanilla to the west. The municipality measures 44.51 square miles (117.87 square kilometers). It is located on the southern coastal plains, but the northern part of its territory is located in the central mountain range, where Macaná, Barreal, Jaguas, Quebrada Ceiba, and Rucio wards are located. Elevations in this area exceed 800 meters (2,625 feet) above sea level. Two of the elevations are mounts Peñuelas and Garrote, two of the twenty highest elevations in Puerto Rico. Also, one of the seven sections of the Guilarte State Forest is located in the northern part of this town (Barreal and Jaguas wards). The Tallaboa Valley, which is comprised of the Tallaboa River and the surrounding alluvial plain, is also located in this municipality. The rest of the land is characterized by slight undulations and plains that reach into the lowlands in Tallaboa Poniente ward. This ward is located on the coast, were there are two promontories, Gotay and Guayanilla, as well as the Tallaboa Bay. Palomas, Parguera, Caribe, María Langa, and Rio (the largest) keys face the bay. There are also 30 hectares (about 74 acres) of red mangrove in this area. Mapancha Cave is located in Coto ward in Peñuelas.

The hydrographic system consists of the Macaná and Tallaboa rivers. The former rises from the northeast in Macaná ward and flows down through Guayanilla. It is 11 kilometers (7 miles) long from the source to Guayanilla Bay, and it has one tributary, De los Cedros brook. The Tallaboa River springs from the northern part of Rucio ward and is 22.5 kilometers (14 miles) long. This river flows only through Peñuelas, and its tributaries are the Guayanés River, which originates in Jaguas ward. Two of its tributaries are Ceiba and Barreal brooks. The Garzas waterfall located on this river is a result of the abrupt steepening of the land.

Before the Spanish conquest, this area was under the caciques Guaraca, Guayaney, and Guaypao. Some historians believe that the name Peñuelas refers to the large rock formations that are located in this territory, specifically in Barreal and Jaguas wards. Others believe that the name is related to the Taino word seboruco meaning small rocks. A third group believes that the name stems from the surname Peña or Peñuelas, which, apparently was the surname of one of the main founders.

During the first half of the 18th century, a group of colonists settled near the Tallaboa River mouth to cultivate the land. By 1788, there were already 80 families engaged in farming and breeding cattle in the area. Tallaboa Bay was used for fishing and as a smugglers port. It is believed that because of the constant pirate and privateer attacks the settlers decided to move inland, where the town center is located today. In 1793, the population was recognized as a town with the name of San José de Peñuelas and, in that same year, a church was erected in honor of St. Joseph. According to Villar Roces, in 1815, the town became a third rank municipality.

The land’s fertility and the proximity to the sea defined Peñuela’s growth. In 1831, as was recorded by Pedro Tomás de Córdova, the wards of Pueblo, Coto, Santo Domingo, Macaná, Jagua, Barrizal, Joya Llanita, Ausubos, Quebrada Seiba, Cuevas, Rucio, Tallaboa Alta, Cedro Tallaboa Saliente, and Poniente were already recognized. Eventually, Encarnación ward was also included, as it had already been included by the historian Ubeda y Delgado since 1874. In the late 19th century, the urban center of Peñuelas had nine main streets and four cross-streets, a Catholic church, the Government House, a cemetery, and a butcher’s shop. By then there were 9,000 residents. The economy was centered on coffee, tobacco, sugar, and produce, as well as a growing retail economy. Some of the sugar mills were Pepita, Antonio and Herminio Valdivieso’s La Dolores, José María Rodríguez’s La Buena Fe, Luis Costas, La Buena Vista, and Hacienda Clementina, owned by the Marcussi Family (Villar Roces 1976). Other industries included lime works, cigarette and mosaic factories, and a corn mill, among others.

In 1902, Peñuelas became part of the municipality of Ponce as a result of a law approved by the Legislature that consolidated some of the Island’s municipalities. Three years later, this law was revoked, reinstating the municipality’s sovereignty. Peñuelas was thus restored, along with the wards it had before it was annexed: Ausubos, Barreal, Cedro, Coto, Cuevas, Encarnación, Hoya Llanita, Jagua, Macaná, Pueblo, Quebrada Ceiba, Rucio, Santo Domingo, Tallaboa Alta, Tallaboa Poniente, and Tallaboa Saliente. However, Ausubos, Cedro, and Hoya Llanita were not mentioned in the 1910 population census. In 1919, the Legislature awarded Cedro ward to the municipality of Guayanilla. The last change regarding the municipality’s constitution occurred in 1948 when the names of Cuevas and Jagua wards were changed to Cuebas and Jaguas, respectively.

During the 20th century, the town’s industrialization process was based on tobacco stripping, orange packaging and shipping, cigarettes, salt works, and fishing. In 1956, the Commonwealth Oil Refining Co. (CORCO), better known as «the petrochemical company,» was established in Peñuelas and engaged in refining crude oil.



The flag was created in 1974. It has a bright yellow field representing the sun, the symbol of life. There is a purple cross in the middle that refers to Christianity, ecclesiastical order, and spiritual life. The purple cross extends to the borders of the yellow rectangle as a symbol of the universality of Christianity and the Church.

Coat of Arms

The coat of arms[Coat of arms] has a yellow field with a red cross at the center and white and blue waves below the cross. The yellow field represents the sun. The cross represents Holy Christ the Healer, the patron saint that worked the miracle of holding back the ravages of the sea that flooded Peñuelas in 1867, as a result of an earthquake. The purple clad arm represents the priesthood and the town of Peñuelas. The blue and white undulations symbolize the rough waters of the sea. The coat of arms is crowned by a turreted castle that symbolizes the status as a town, although the inhabitants of Peñuelas associate it with perpetuity, and there is a banner beneath the shield where the phrase «In God We Trust» is written as a testimony of Christian faith. Like the flag, it was created in 1974.

Places of Interest

• Guilarte State Forest
• Spanish Cannon – located on the Fire House
• Sopladera Pond
• The Chimney – remains of the former sugar economy
• Del Convento Caves
• Finca Guaraguao – eco-tourism area
• Hacienda Villa Flor – recreational Area
• Evangelical Church
• San José Catholic Church
• The Locomotive
• Monument to Pedro Albizu Campos
• Monument to Angel Pacheco Alvarado
• Monument to Holy Christ, the Healer
• Monument to the Unknown Soldier

Illustrious Citizens

Lorenzo A. Balasquide – Writer and historian.

Luis Díaz Hernández – Writer and historian.

Egla Morales Blouin – Poet. Professor of Spanish, French, and Latin in Texas and New York.

José Novoa González – Representative to the House of Representatives for the 23rd district (1973 – 1976).

Guillermo Rivera – Bibliographer, essayist, and translator. Professor at Harvard and Cornell.

Alfonso Santiago Cruz – Dean of the Department of Arts and Humanities of the Catholic University of Ponce.


• Endless Fun Festival – April
• Festival of the Cross – May
• National Güiro Festival – May
• Festival of the Flamboyan Tree – Summer
• Children’s Festival – August
• Patron Saint’s Festival – September
• Folk Festival – October
• The Cantatas – December


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