Rio Grande

Rio Grande

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Río Grande, founded in 1840, is known as the «City of El Yunque.» The municipality’s patron saint is the Virgen de Nuestra Señora del Carmen.

The municipality of Río Grande covers approximately 157 square kilometers (60.8 square miles). The population of the municipality is 52,362 inhabitants (2000 Census). The territory is divided into the sectors of Río Grande Pueblo, Ciénaga Alta, Ciénaga Baja, Guzmán Arriba, Guzmán Abajo, Herreras, Jiménez, Mameyes II and Zarzal.

The municipality’s economy includes various factories, hotels and golf courses. Agriculture includes commercial flower growing (especially lilies), as well as plantains, yautia, tomatoes, cucumbers and other crops.


Río Grande is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the east by the municipalities of Luquillo and Ceiba, on the west by Loíza, and on the south by Naguabo and Las Piedras. Geographically, it is part of the region called the northern coastal plains. It has alluvial soils, interrupted by some rocky promontories and sand dunes in the coastal area.

The mountainous zone is part of the Caribbean National Forest, which is part of the Luquillo mountain range. The majority of this forest is located within the municipality of Río Grande.

To the south and southeast are the highest elevations in the Luquillo range: the peaks of El Toro and El Yunque. In the north, near the coast, are the smaller peaks known as El Faro and Bravo. The former, located between the sectors of Mameyes II and Zarzal, is 140 meters (459 feet) in elevation. The latter is located in the Zarzal sector and rises to 100 meters (328 feet) above sea level. The lands near the coasts are characterized by being low-lying and swampy.

The municipality’s hydrological system consists of the Herrera, Espíritu Santo and Mameyes rivers. The first is the border with the municipalities ofCanóvanas and Loíza and measures approximately nine miles in length. The second originates in the Jiménez sector and has an approximate length of 12 miles. Its tributaries are the Sonador and Grande rivers. The third, the Mameyes River, forms in the sector of the same name. It is the border with Luquillo and measures about nine miles in length. Its tributaries are La Mina River and its tributary, the Juan Diego stream; La Máquina stream and its tributaries, the Lingueta and La Toma streams; and the Tabonuco and Anón streams.

Río Grande has extensive mangrove swamps located at the mouths of the Espíritu Santo, Herrera and Mameyes rivers and at Picuda Point.

The municipality’s name comes from the Grande River, a tributary of the Espíritu Santo River, which passes near the town. During the years of conquest and colonization, the town suffered continuous attacks by the Caribe and Taino Indians. The zone was settled little by little after the confrontations with the indigenous peoples ended. From then, the large ranches, sugar cane plantations and fruit farms began to arise.

Río Grande was founded on July 26, 1840, thanks to the efforts of a group of residents who wanted to separate Río Grande from the town of Loíza. Desiderio Escobar, Quilimaco Escobar, Juan Monge and others, advised by the priest Juan León Lascot, approached the governor of the island, Miguel López de Baños, to request separation from Loíza on all civil and church matters. A church was erected in the municipality during the same year it was founded.

At that time, Río Grande consisted of the sectors of Ciénaga Alta, Ciénaga Baja, Jiménez, Guzmán Abajo, Guzmán Arriba, Herreras, Río Grande Pueblo and Zarzal. In 1897, the Mameyes II sector of the municipality of Luquillo was annexed to Río Grande.

Two years later, the municipality of Luquillo was dissolved and its sectors were distributed between Fajardo and Río Grande. The sectors of Mata de Plátano, Mameyes I, Hato Viejo and parts of Sabana were added to Río Grande. The Hato Viejo sector disappeared in 1910. Four years later, in 1914, the Legislative Assembly restored Luquillo as a municipality and returned to it all of its sectors, except Mameyes II.

In 1898, the Puerto Rico Planning Board prepared the official map of the municipality and its sectors. With this map, the urban zone was expanded to include parts of the rural sectors of Herreras and Guzmán Abajo.

During the first years after the municipality was founded, Río Grande’s economy was based on livestock ranching. Years later, the cultivation of sugar cane increased. As a result, mills were built, which were later overtaken by plantations, which were in turn superseded by the mechanized central sugar mills.

In the middle of the 19th century, the municipality had two plantations: Monserrate and Constancia. The former, owned by Sucesores Veve, was founded in 1850 by José Calzada and had 701 cuerdas of land. The latter, founded in 1870 by Felipe García, had 50 cuerdas of land.

In the 1970s, 740 cuerdas of land in Río Grande were dedicated to growing sugar cane. There were also two dairies with 325 cuerdas of pasture that produced 2,560 liters of milk daily. Another 13 farms with 4,020 cuerdas of pasture and 3,600 head of livestock were dedicated to raising beef cattle. There were also ten poultry farms in the municipality with a total of 150,000 laying hens.

Also, during the same decade, flowers, plantains, yautia, tomatoes, cucumbers and other fruits were grown on a commercial scale. There were also more than 15 factories operating in Río Grande, manufacturing articles such as electrical switches, clothing, parts for air conditioners, concrete posts, needles, school products, and other items.

Today, the municipality’s economy is mainly based on manufacturing and tourism. In recent years, business, banking and construction have experienced growth.


The flag  of Río Grande consists of two horizontal bands of equal size, joined by a white triangle located on the side toward the flagpole. The upper band is green and alludes to the mountains in the zone. The blue band represents the Espíritu Santo River and the white alludes to the clouds and fog that drapes the sides of El Yunque. On the white triangle is the Puerto Rican Parrot, which lives in this area, specifically in the Luquillo mountains. It is a species in danger of extinction.

Coat of Arms
The coat of arms  unites the traditional, historical and geographic elements of Río Grande. On a field of silver are two naturally depicted Puerto Rican parrots (Amazona vitatta vitatta) facing each other above a wavy blue band that represents the Espíritu Santo River. There is also a green mountain with three peaks that alludes to the mountains of El Yunque.

The top portion is blue with an open book in silver, accompanied on each side by five gold coins forming a cross. The open book represents the Pimentel y Castro School, the first school built in Puerto Rico through matching funds from the municipality and the government of the island. One of the groups of five «bezante» coins (ancient Byzantine money) symbolizes the five thousand pesos provided by Río Grande and the other group of coins represents the five thousand pesos provided by the Island Government of Puerto Rico for the construction of the school. The book also symbolizes the participation of the teachers, especially the school master and local historian Edmundo Del Valle, and the students of Río Grande in the work of designing the coat of arms.

At the top is the crown wall in gold with three towers, outlined in green that is the insignia of municipal coats of arms.

Places of Interest

• Caribbean National Forest, El Yunque
• El Verde (recreational area)
• Espíritu Santo River Nature Reserve

Illustrious Citizens

José P. H. Hernández – (1892-1922) Poet and pharmacist. Born in Hatillo but accepted as a favorite son of Río Grande. He wrote various books of poetry, including El último combate (1912), Coplas de la vereda(1919), Cantos de la sierra (1925) and Antología poética (1956), published posthumously.

Aníbal Díaz Montero – (1911- ) Short story writer and journalist. He was one of the co-founders of the Author’s House and the Society of Puerto Rican Authors. He is a member of the Ibero-American Circle of Writers and Poets in New York and the Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as having been a contributor to the newspaper El Vocero. He was the author of various books of travel chronicles. Among his best known books are Pedruquito y sus amigos, Hablando con ellos and Nico el Pinche.

Carlos Román Benítez – Journalist, poet, senator and delegate to the Constituent Convention of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. He was a member of the Senate from 1953 to 1964 and was named secretary of the Senate in 1965.

Alvaro Rivera Reyes – Member of the House of Representatives and delegate to the Constituent Convention of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Felipe Sánchez – President of the Puerto Rico Union Party and the Carolina Municipal Assembly.


Río Grande Carnival – July
Virgen del Carmen Patron Saint Festival – July
Stuffed Potato Festival – April
Las Picúas Festival – September



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