Sabana Grande is known as the “Town of the Prodigies,” the “Town of the Virgen del Rosario del Pozo,” the “City of the Petate” and the “Town of the Petate Makers.” The petate is a mat made from a type of palm (Thrinax morrisii) that grows in the area.
The patron saint of the municipality is San Isidro Labrador. The municipality has a population of 25,935 inhabitants (2000 Census). Territorially, the municipality is divided into the sectors of Sabana Grande, Santana, Tabonuco, Rincón, Rayo, Machuchal, Torre and Susúa.
Today, factories in the municipality produce scientific instruments and chemical, textile and wood products. Traditionally, the Sabana Grande economy was agricultural in the past, dominated by sugar cane. Today, coffee, plantains, and fruits are grown. Livestock ranching is also part of the Sabana Grande economy.
According to some Catholic faithful, the Virgen del Rosario or Virgen del Pozo has appeared several times in the municipality. La Virgen appeared to various people during a 36-day period from April 23 to May 25 of 1953. Since then, thousands of people have come to the well to pray and to be healed by its waters.
The municipality is bordered on the north by the municipality of Maricao, on the south by Guánica, on the west by San Germán and on the east by Yauco. Geographically, it is part of the region known as the western coastal valleys. Its lands are alluvial and very fertile. They enjoy an abundance of rain from May through November and periods of drought from December to March.
The highest elevations in the municipality are found in the north, along the border with Maricao. In this area, which is part of the Central Mountain range, the topography is moderately mountainous, with a maximum elevation of 800 meters (2,624 feet) above sea level.
In the Santana sector is the Caridad hill, which measures 573 meters (1,880 feet). Also located here is El Comején, which reaches a height of 511 meters (1,676 feet) and the Palmero peak at 310 meters (1,046 feet) above sea level. To the east, between the sectors of Tabonuco in Sabana Grande and Frailes in Yauco is the Fraile peak, at 764 meters (2,506 feet) above sea level.
In the center of the municipality is the Plato Colmar peak that rises approximately 440 meters (1,443 feet). To the south is La Torre at 322 meters and Los Bonelli peak at 235 meters above sea level.
The municipality’s hydrographic system consists of the following bodies of water: the Guanajibo River, the Grande River, the Coco River and the Flores River and the Culebra, Honda and Agustina streams. The Guanajibo River forms in the Rincón sector of Sabana Grande and runs some 40 kilometers (25 miles) before emptying into the Mona Channel.
There are two forest preserves in the municipality: the Maricao Forest and the Susúa Forest. The Maricao Forest covers parts of the municipalities of Maricao, San Germán, Mayagüez and Sabana Grande. The Susúa Forest is located in the Torre sector of Sabana Grande and the Susúa Alta sector of Yauco.
According to the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Susúa Forest lands were acquired in 1935 by the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration. Years later, it was designated a public forest through an administrative order. The forest consists of 3,341 cuerdas of land and the elevation ranges from 80 to 473 meters above sea level. Underneath most of the forest is serpentinite, a brittle rock that may be black, pale green or blue-green. The vegetation in the forest shows the transition of the climate between the wet and dry zones and also reflects a combination of volcanic soils and serpentinite.
The municipality’s name comes from the extensive plain that occupies the southern part of the municipality, better known as Sabana Grande Abajo. According to historian Mario Villar Roces, before 1808 there was a community with its own church on the land today known as Sabana Grande Arriba. Evidence of this is the oldest baptismal registry preserved from the area, as Sabana Grande was originally a sector of the municipality of San Germán.
Because the community was so far from the center of San Germán, residents felt a need to build a church, which was established as an auxiliary to the San Germán parish. The church was built and was devoted to San Isidro Labrador and Santa María de la Cabeza.
Some historians assert that the town was founded in 1808, while others say it was founded in 1813, a year after the town was politically established in 1812. Historian Villar Roces posits that although the exact date of the founding of the town is not found in any document in the municipal archives, 1813 should be considered the year it was legally founded because it coincides with the date of the first registry document. In entry number 23 in the third book of marriages, dated July 1, 1813, the priest is identified as “Priest Ecónomo of the Sabana Grande Parish Church,” while previous entries were called “Attending Priests” or “Coadjutants of the Villa of San Germán.”
Sabana Grande became an independent parish, under its own jurisdiction, in June of 1813, with the first parish priest of the San Isidro Labrador y Santa María de la Cabeza Church being Martín Antonio Borreli.
On December 21, 1814, the first captain general of Sabana Grande, Pedro de Acosta, took office. Some local historians assert that he donated seventy cuerdas of land where the Kings House, priests house, a plaza, a butcher shop and a cemetery were established. Others say that this land was donated by Joaquín P. Rodríguez de la Seda y Almodóvar. Villar Roces adds that Juan Francisco de Acosta, brother of the mayor and parish priest of Sabana Grande, donated his house to the town so it could be used as the Kings House or council house.
The first families of Sabana Grande were the García Almodóvar, Nazario de Figueroa, Acosta, Sanabria, Lugo, Rivera, Sepúlveda, del Toro, Montalvo, Irizarry, Borreli, Ramírez, Torres, Matos, Pabón, Dávila, Quiñones, Rodríguez de la Renta, Soltero, Segarra, Ortiz de la Renta, Ortiz de la Peña, Vélez Borrero, Saavedra families and others. Also, Catalan families with the surnames of Busigó, Malaret and Serra, and a group of Greek immigrants with the surname Soto, all settled in the town from the time of its founding.
In its early years, the economy of the town was based on growing sugar cane. At first it was processed using primitive presses, then mills, and later in the large central sugar mills established in neighboring areas. The municipality ultimately had three large sugar cane plantations: San Francisco, 75 cuerdas in size; La Carmelita, 20 cuerdas; and San Felipe, 76 cuerdas. The San Francisco and Carmelita plantations were founded in 1872 by Domingo Quevedo and Manuel Rodríguez Soto, while the San Felipe plantation was founded by Felipe Irizarry in 1880.
In 1974, sugar cane was still harvested in the municipality. In that year, 43,179 tons of cane were harvested to produce 3,714 tons of sugar. There were two first-class dairies that in the same year produced 267,284 quarts of milk.
On March 16, 1890, the only Masonic cemetery in Puerto Rico was founded in Sabana Grande. The first aviator in Puerto Rico, Félix Rigau Carrera, and the first Puerto Rican soldier to die in combat in World War I (1915), Angel Santos Damián, were from Sabana Grande.
The flag of Sabana Grande has four squarers, two green and two yellow, alternating. In the center is the municipal coat of arms. The meaning of the flag comes from the coat of arms.
Coat of Arms
The municipality’s coat of arms contains the elements that represent the town’s patron saints. The shovel and rake allude to San Isidro Labrador. It is believed this representation arose from the faith of the workers in the Sabana Grande countryside. When a bad drought came, they made promises in the hopes that their patron saint would save their crops. The urn represents the domestic tasks of Santa María de la Cabeza, the wife of San Isidro.
In the center is the leaf of the petate palm as an icon of a traditional industry of Sabana Grande. Above is the crown wall which, as a symbol of solidarity, civic unity and common defense, is a heraldic tribute that is part of the coat of arms of towns. The motto on the coat of arms is “Town of the Prodigies.”
Hon. Miguel G. Ortiz Pérez
Places of Interest
• San Francisco Estate
• La Casa Grande (Quilinchini Estate)
• Museum of Art, City Hall
• Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rosary of the Well
• Igualdad Lodge #23
• Susúa State Forest
• Barco House
• Orlando López Recreational Center
• Albino Estate
Augusto Malaret Yordán – (1878-1967) Lawyer, essayist, journalist and linguist. Author of the Diccionario de provincialismos de Puerto Rico (1917), theDiccionario de americanismos (1925) and Investigaciones gramaticales.
Manuel Quevedo Báez – (1865-1955) Physician, journalist and essayist. Founder of the magazine El Palenque de la Juventud, a periodical of great importance in Puerto Rican letters. Author of the Historia de la medicina y la cirugía en Puerto Rico. First president of the Medical Association of Puerto Rico.
Adalberto Rodríguez – (1934-1995) Comedian, parachutist and artist. Known for his portrayal of the character “The Mayor of Machuchal.”
Presby Santiago – Representative in the House for District 21 from 1992-1996.
Enrique Malaret Yordán and Joseíto Irizarry – Militants who fought for Cuban independence in the ranks of the Cuba Liberation Army.
Patron Saint Festival – May
Virgen del Pozo Marathon – May
Inter-organizational Carnival – April
Soberao Jazz Festival – April
Petate Festival – December
Burén Corn Fritter Festival – December
Troubadour Festival – December
Three Kings Festival – January
Grand Petate Festival – February
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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