The municipality of Ponce is located on the south coast of Puerto Rico, and has an area of 115.69 square miles (299.63 square kilometers). It is known as the «Pearl of the South,» the «Noble City,» «The Lions,» and the «Genip City*». According to the 2000 census, there were 186,475 Ponceños living in Anón, Bucaná, Canas, Capitanejo, Cerrillos, Coto Laurel, Cuarto, Guaraguao, Machuelo Abajo, Machuelo Arriba, Magueyes, Maragüez, Marueño, Montes Llanos, Playa, Portugués, Primero, Quebrada Limón, Quinto, Real, Sabanetas, San Antón, San Patricio, Segundo, Sexto, Tercero, Tibes, and Vayas wards. The patroness of Ponce is Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
Ponce is one of the most developed municipalities on the island, whose manufacturing sectors include electronic and electrical equipment, communications equipment, food processing, pharmaceuticals, concrete plants, and scientific instruments. Other industries include leather products, needlework, and fish flour. In the agricultural sector, the most import product is coffee, followed by plantains, bananas, oranges, and grapefruit, among others. Other economic activities include public and private services, finance, retail sales, and construction.
The city is also known for landmarks such as the Firehouse (1882); the Cathedral, the La Perla Theater (partially destroyed in the 1918 earthquake and rebuilt in 1941), the Art Museum, the Serrallés mansion, and the Vigía Cross. The Indigenous Ceremonial Park in Tibes Ward and the Caja de Muertos Lighthouse built in 1880 are also located in this municipality. Natural resources in Ponce include the Toro Negro forest, the El Tuque beach, Deadman’s Chest island, and Pelícano and Blanca beaches.
*Genip is one of the common names in English for Melicoccus bijugatus. The word used in Puerto Rico is quenepa. Other Spanish-speaking countries call the fruit mamoncillo.
Ponce is bordered on the north by Utuado and Jayuya, on the northwest by Adjuntas, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, on the east by Juana Díaz, and on the west by Peñuelas. The municipal territory reaches the central mountain range to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. Geographically speaking, the southern area of the territory is part of the Ponce-Patillas alluvial plain subsector and the southern coastal plain, which were created by the consolidation of the valleys of the southern side of the central mountain range and the Cayey mountain range. The central area of the municipality is part of the semi-arid southern hills. These two regions are classified as being the driest on the island. The southern part of the municipality is considered to be within the rainy western mountains.
Elevations include Mount Punta at 1,338 meters (4,390 feet), the highest in Puerto Rico, located on the boundary between Anón ward in Ponce and Veguitas ward in Jayuya. Mount Jayuya, at 1,315 meters (4,314 feet) is located on the boundary between Anón ward and Saliente ward in Jayuya. Mount Maravilla, at nearly 1,210 meters (3,970 feet) above sea level, is located to the east of Anón ward. There are many other mountains at lower elevations in the municipality, such as the Montes Llanos ridge and Mount Diablo, at 680 meters (2,231 feet) and Mount Marueño, at 640 meters (2,100 feet), and Pinto Peak, among others. The Toro Negro Forest is located in Anón ward. Coastal promontories include Cuchara, Peñoncillo, Carnero, and Cabullón points.
The following rivers comprise the hydrographic system of Ponce: Jacaguas, Inabón, Bucaná (Cerrillos), Portugués, Cañas, San Patricio, and Matilde (Pastillo). The Jacaguas River runs for a brief stretch on the southeast area of the municipality. The Inabón River springs from Anón ward and runs through the municipality for some 28.5 kilometers (18 miles); the tributaries of the Inabón are the Anón and Guayo rivers and the Emajagua Brook. The Bucaná River springs from Machuelo Arriba ward and runs for 29.5 kilometers (18.5 miles) into the Caribbean Sea. The tributaries of the Bucaná are the San Patricio, Bayagán, and Prieto Rivers and Ausubo brook. The Portugués River springs from the ward of that name in Adjuntas, and runs for 27.6 kilometers (17.3 miles) into the Caribbean sea at Ponce Playa ward. The Matilde River, also known as the Pastillo River, runs for 19 kilometers (12 miles); its tributaries are the Cañas River and the Limón and del Agua brooks. Lakes in Ponce include Bronce and Ponceña as well as lakes bearing numbers: Uno, Dos, Tres, and Cinco; and the Salinas lagoon, which is considered a restricted lagoon. Other water bodies are the springs at Quintana and the Ponce and el Tuque beaches.
Geographic features of the coast include Cabullón inlet, and Ratones, Cardona, Gato, and Fríos keys. Deadman’s Chest island and Morrillito islet are located at the boundary between Ponce and Juana Díaz. There is a mangrove covering an area of approximately 40 hectares at Cabullón promontory and Fríos keys. The mangrove at Salinas lagoon covers an area of about 15 hectares. The Rita cave is located in Cerrillos ward.
The name of the town comes from a great-grandson of the Conquistador Juan Ponce de León, Juan Ponce de León y Loaiza, one of the first settlers of the region. It is said that the young Ponce de León was sent to study in Spain, and that while he was there he married Ana de Salamanca, a niece of Bishop Diego de Salamanca, who had been on the island between 1577 and 1587. In one of the bishop’s return trips to Puerto Rico, bad weather forced him to land at Mosquital in Guánica. While traveling to San Juan, he was able to observe the state of abandonment of the southern region, and he made efforts to have farmers sent there to settle and work the land. This was how Juan Ponce de León y Loaiza became interested in colonizing the area known today as Ponce.
By 1662, there were several farmers who had settled on the plains on the Portugués riverside, part of the jurisdiction of Coamo. The region was also on the left bank of the Jacaguas River, the natural boundary between the Puerto Rico and San Germán districts (partidos). Eight years later, the settlers already had anhermitage dedicated to Our Lady of Guadeloupe, so that they could attend mass without having to travel to San Germán or Coamo. At the time, the small village, which was to become the city of Ponce, depended in civil and religious matters on the chartered city of San Germán.
By the mid-18th century, the town had more than 5,000 residents and 115 dwellings. In 1778, when the chartered city of Coamo was created, Ponce was placed under that city for civil and religious purposes, but remained as one of the seven military centers of the island. This action allowed Ponce to organize and deploy more than three hundred militiamen to assist in the defense of the capital at San Juan during the British attack of 1797. By 1831, the town was comprised of Bayas al Norte, Bayas al Sur, Bejuco Blanco, Bucané y Rábanos, Canas, Canas y Magueyes, Caños y Pámpano, Capitanejo, Coto de los Laureles, Machuelo Abajo, Machuelo y Bayagán, Marueño, Matojal, Pastillo, Playas Quemado, Ponce Pueblo, Real y Guano, Sabanetas, San Antón, and Tibes Portugués wards. On July 29, 1848, Queen Isabella II bestowed on Ponce the title of chartered city in «Royal gratitude for the industriousness and loyalty of its residents.» In 1877, Ponce was granted the title of city.
During the course of the 19th century, Ponce became the principal center of economic, cultural, and intellectual progress in the region. The flourishing economy was led by a foreign-born landowning class, who used slavery to transform the fertile lands of Ponce into the agricultural center of the island. An example of this economic development was the Ponce Exhibition Fair in 1882, where the latest agricultural and industrial advances were exhibited. On July 15 of that year the first train line between Ponce and Yauco was inaugurated. Seven years later, on January 14, 1899, permits were granted for an electric trolley system.
In the cultural sphere, music, the theater, the opera, literary movements, and the press found fertile ground in Ponce. The first local newspaper, El Ponceño, began to circulate on July 10, 1852. The paper was published and edited by Felipe Conde, Benito Villardell, and Augusto Pasarell-Mills, and was printed in the shop were the newspaper La Democracia was first printed in 1880. These publications laid the groundwork for Ponce’s journalistic tradition. Other cultural advances included the construction of the La Perla Theater in 1864, at the initiative of Francisco Parra and Pedro Garriga. The theater was inaugurated by the Segarra and Argente Company, with a play, La campana de Almudaina. The organization know as Gabinete de Lectura, or readers’ circle, was founded in 1870, and was considered one of the most progressive of the civic centers of the island. The Gabinete was a library, a lecture hall, an archeological museum, a meeting place for intellectuals, and the place where the generation of liberal journalists of the 1880s was formed: Luis Muñoz Rivera, Baldorioty de Castro, José Ramón Abad, Mario Braschi, and Ramón Marín.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Ponce showed signs of having developed a regional way of life and a certain political independence, which is still the pride of the Ponceños of today. The distinguished humanists Eugenio María de Hostos, Román Baldorioty de Castro, Federico Degetau, and Rosendo Matienzo-Cintrón all lived in Ponce. Other liberal activists included Ramón Marín-Solá, Heraclio Tirado, and Francisco Javier Amy. The Autonomist Party was founded in Ponce in 1887, under the presidency of Román Baldorioty de Castro. In September of 1898, Eugenio María de Hostos, returned from New York, where he had founded the Puerto Rican Patriots’ League. Historians have said that it was in Ponce where Hostos began his political activities and that it was the Ponce city government that was the first to appoint its representatives, along with Peñuelas, Adjuntas, and Juana Díaz, to create the Puerto Rico Commission. Subsequently, doctors Manuel Zeno-Gandía, Julio Henna, and Rafael del Valle also joined the commission.
During the course of the 20th century Ponce continued to develop in all spheres. By the 1970s, the municipality’s economy was based on sugar cane, coffee, and produce. The most important products were sugar-cane based (sugar and rum), gasoline, and fish-based products. The region became highly industrialized, with almost 200 companies, including the Serrallés distillery, the Puerto Rico Iron Works, and the Puerto Rico Cement Corporation. The economy was also stimulated by banking institutions such as Banco de Crédito y Ahorro Ponceño, Banco de Ponce, the Banco Popular, First Federal and Loan Association, and the Housing Bank.
The Ponce flag is divided into two equal triangles, similar to the coat of arms. The upper triangle is red, and the lower is black. The red is a symbol of fire and fortitude. The black represents the night, repentance, prudence, and modesty. The flag bears the coat of arms at the center.
Coat of arms
The shield of the Ponce coat of arms is divided into two triangles. The upper is red, symbolizing fire and fortitude– and the lower is black, alluding to the night, repentance, prudence, and modesty. The coat of arms bears a gold lion with a black mane. The lion is facing left and standing on a bridge. The water flowing under the bridge represents the two rivers that cross the city.
Intertwining sugar canes and coffee branches, representing what were at one time the most important crops of the city, surround the shield. The shield is crowned by a turreted castle, symbolizing Ponce’s status as a city, granted by King Alfonso XII in 1877.
Alfredo M. Aguayo – Educator and writer. Professor at the University of Havana in Cuba. A member of the Cuban Academy of History. Because of his outstanding career as an educator, the School of Education at the University of Havana bears his name.
Pedro Albizu-Campos – A leader of the Puerto Rican nationalist movement who left a profound mark in his country’s history. He presided the Nationalist Party and spent many years in prison for defending the independence struggle.
María Teresa Babín – Educator and essayist who has also written poetry and plays. Her best-known works include Panorama de la cultura puertorriqueña and several essays on Federico García Lorca.
Vicente Balbás-Capó – Journalist and political figure, a defender of the Spanish colonial regime. During the Spanish-American War Balbás-Capó organized a volunteer battalion and was imprisoned for his opposition to Puerto Ricans serving in the United States armed forces.
Héctor Campos-Parsi – One of the most important contemporary Puerto Rican composers. Author of two important essays on Puerto Rican music.
Carlos E. Chardón-Palacios – Scientist and essayist. Chardón held important public positions, notably in the financial sector; he promoted an economical proposal known as the Plan Chardón in 1935. Among other works, Chardón wrote an excellent essay on Simón Bolívar, for which he was decorated by the Venezuelan government with the Order of the Liberator.
Arístides Chavier-Arévalo – Musician and composer of the modernist period. Chavier wrote the Puerto Rico Overture and the essay «El arte musical puertorriqueño: su desarrollo y evolución hasta el presente», in 1923.
Federico Degetau-González – A liberal political figure and writer; delegate to the Spanish Cortes and resident commissioner in Washington (1901 – 1905).
Ruth Fernández-Corrada – Signer of international renown. Senator and director of the Governor‘s Cultural Affairs Office.
Luis A. Ferré-Aguayo – Engineer, pianist, founder of the New Progressive Party (1967); Ferré was a senator (1977 – 1985) president of the Senate (1977 – 1981), and governor of Puerto Rico (1968-1972). He also was a patron of the arts and founder of the Museo de Arte de Ponce (1959).
Félix Franco-Oppenheimer – Poet and writer. His works include Contornos, Imagen y visión edénica de Puerto Rico and Antología poética.
Julio J. Henna – Physician. Henna participated in the founding of the Puerto Rico Section of the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York. He later supported the annexation of Puerto Rico to the United States.
Rafael Hernández-Colón – Attorney, secretary of justice (1964-1968), President of the Senate (1968-1972), and Governor of Puerto Rico (1972-1976, 1984-1988, 1988-1992).
Antonio S. Luchetti -Public servant, engineer. Under his initiative, the electric power system was established and developed in Puerto Rico under the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority (PRWRA).
Washington Llorens – Linguist, poet, and essayist. His works include El español de Puerto Rico and El habla popular de Puerto Rico.
Juan Morel-Campos – A great composer and musician. Although Manuel G. Tavárez is recognized as «the Father of the Puerto Rican danza,» it was Morel Campos who perfected the danza, based on Tavarez’s habanera style. His compositions include: Sopapos, Alma sublime, Felices días, Laura y Georgina, Sueño de amor, and Vano empeño.
Antonio E. Paoli-Marcano – A singer of international renown, known as «The tenor of kings» and «The king of tenors.»
Olga Albizu – abstract painter
César Andreu-Iglesias- journalist, writer
Rosario Ferré-Ramírez de Arellano- writer, profesor and member of the Academia Puertorriqueña de la Lengua. Has written fiction, poetry, essays and was the director of the journal Zona de Carga y descarga in 1970.
Raúl Gándara-Cartagena -A fire chief; he wrote a book on the firemen’s service in 1951, which became a manual in several Latin American countries.
Elías López-Sobá- pianist, professor
Elisa Tavárez- daughter of the «Father of the danza» Manuel G. Tavárez, a pianist of international renown.
Mariano Villaronga-Toro Commissioner of Public Education (1946).
Emilio J. Pasarell – Writer, journalist and poet. Pasarell wrote about the origins of the theater in Puerto Rico.
Miguel Pou-Becerra – Painter of countryside genre paintings, among them: Camino del pueblo, El bohío de yaguas, El flamboyán, Lavanderas del River Portugués, and Paisaje de montaña.
Old customs house
• Old Ponce Casino
• Old infantry quarters
• Toro Negro Forest
• Miguel Pou Boulevard
• 25 de Enereo Street
• City Hall
• Armstrong-Poventud residence
• Wiechers-Villaronga residence
• Serrallés Mansion
• Our Lady of Guadeloupe Cathedral
• Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center
• Ponce traditional town center
• Yacht Club
• El Vigía Cross (Japanese Garden)
• Buena Vista Plantation
• Meliá Hotel
• Monument to Women
• Museo de Arte de Ponce
• Casa Paoli Museum
• Francisco «Pancho» Coimbre Museum
• Ponce History Museum
• Ponce Massacre Museum
• Puerto Rican Music Museum
• Román Baldorioty de Castro National Pantheon
• Silkwood Tree Park
• Enrique González Park
• Monument to Pedro Albizu Campos and Park
• Julio E. Monagas Recreational Park
• Tercentennial Park
• Dora Colón Clavell Urban Park
• Antonio Arias Ventura promenade
• Atocha promenade
• La Guancha Boardwalk
• Playa de Ponce Ward
• El Tuque Beach
• Las Delicias town square
• Plaza del Caribe Mall
• Juan Ponce de León Square
• Isabel II Marketplace
• Deadman’s Chest natural reserve
• La Perla Theater
• Farmers’ trails
• Fishermen’s village
* Ponce Carnival – the week before Lent
* Regional Crafts Fair – March
* Ponce Playa Festival – May
* Danza Week – May
* Bomba Festival in San Antón Ward – July
* Patron Saint’s Day Festival – December
* Discovering our Indian Roots – November
* Matins in Honor of Our Lady of Guadeloupe – December
* Christmas Concert – December
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