The municipality of San Germán is known as the «City of the Hills,» the «City of the Swallows,» the «FoundingCity,» the «Cradle of Puerto Rican Basketball» and the «Pilgrim City.» The patron saint is San Germán de Auxerre and residents are called sangermeños.
The territory of the municipality of San Germán covers approximately 141 square kilometers (54.5 square miles). It is divided into 19 sectors: San Germán Pueblo, Ancones, Caín Alto, Caín Bajo, Cotuí, Duey Alto, Duey Bajo, Guamá, Hoconuco Alto, Hoconuco Bajo, Maresúa, Minillas, Retiro, Rosario Alto, Rosario Bajo, Rosario Peñón, Sabana Eneas, Sabana Grande Abajo and Tuna. The population is 37,105 inhabitants (2000 census).
In the past, the municipality’s economy was based on agriculture and sugar cane was one of the most important crops. Today, some fruit orchards and livestock farms exist, but the economy is mainly based on manufacturing. Factories producing electrical and electronic appliances, electronic machinery, pharmaceutical products, textiles and food products, among other goods, are based in San Germán.
San Germán is home to important architectural works of historic value. These include the Porta Coeli church, which dates to 1607 and contains a collection of colonial Mexican paintings; San Germán de Auxerre church, built in 1688; and several old residences located in the center of the city.
San Germán is bordered on the north by the municipalities of Mayagüez and Maricao, on the east by the municipality of Sabana Grande, on the west by Hormigueros and Cabo Rojo and on the south by the municipality of Lajas.
Geographically, it is part of the region called the western plains or coastal valleys. Its land is alluvial and very fertile. To the northeast, between San Germán and Maricao, is the ridge of the central mountain range. The Cerro Gordo peaks rise here to an elevation of 883 meters (2,897 feet). Also in this area are the Alto del Descanso peak at 768 meters (2,520 feet); the Cerro de las Avispas at 505 meters (1,657 feet); the Cerro de la Candelaria at 444 meters (1,456 feet); and Los Peñones peak at 227 meters (745 feet) in the Rosario Peñón sector.
To the south are the peaks of Algarrobo at 259 meters (850 feet); La Tea at 240 meters (787 feet); and El Retiro at 220 meters (722 feet). To the northwest, in the Sabana Grande Abajo sector, are the Santa Marta Hills, which have a maximum elevation of 131 meters (430 feet) above sea level.
Bodies of water in the municipality include the Guanajibo River; the Cupeyes River; the Caín River and its tributaries, the Piedras, Casanga and Toruno streams; the Duey River, with its tributaries the Hoconuco and Nueve Pasos rivers and the Naranjo stream; the Viejo River and its tributaries the Maresúa and Trina streams and the Rosario River, which forms the border with Mayagüez and Hormigueros. Two other streams are the Rodeo and San Pedro.
San Germán is also the site of various caves. In the Rosario Alto sector are La Muerta and Los Peñones caves and in the Rosario Bajo sector are the caves called La Oscura, La Clara, the Cueva de la Perra, Chiquita Uno and Chiquita Dos. Also within the municipality are the Malano and Maresúa caves, located in the Tuna and Ancones sectors, respectively.
San Germán also shares the Maricao forest with the municipality of the same name. The forest occupies part of the northern territory of San Germán. Mineral deposits of china clay (white clay) and marble have been found in San Germán. The latter is the most important deposit of marble in Puerto Rico. In the past, gold was mined in the Minillas sector.
There are various theories about the founding of the municipality of San Germán. Some historians assert that the first settlement of San Germán was founded in 1506 by Juan Ponce de León at the mouth of the Guaorabo River (today called the Añasco River). The settlement was baptized with the name Higüey, the same name as the province that Ponce de León had previously governed in Santo Domingo. Later, in 1507, Diego Colón, who was governor of the Indies at that time, ordered that the site be named San Germán. This was done to honor Queen Germana de Foix, second wife of the Catholic King Fernando.
Another theory about the founding of the town attributes the creation of the first settlement to Cristóbal de Sotomayor in 1510 at a site close to the settlement of the Taino Chief Agüeybaná or Guaybaná. Sotomayor called the settlement Villa de Tavara in honor of his mother, Beatriz de Tavara, Countess of Camiña. However, the inconveniences of living in a boggy area led the residents to move to the coast, in the area of Aguada and Añasco, where they renamed the settlement Villa de Sotomayor.
During the indigenous uprising of 1511, lead by the chiefs Agüeybaná and Guarionex, the village was destroyed. In 1512, King Fernando ordered the reconstruction of the settlement. The mouth of the Guaorabo River, in what is today Añasco, was chosen as the site. Two years later, in 1514, the island was divided into two administrative sections for the first time. The island was divided by an imaginary line. The territory to the west was called the San Germán or Nueva Salamanca District and the land to the east was called the Puerto Rico District.
From the 1520s through the 1560s, the attacks and plundering of the town, both by French pirates and by the indigenous Caribs, affected the development of the town and caused it to disintegrate. In 1543, due to the town’s lack of fortifications, it became practically depopulated as the majority of the residents moved to the Santa Marta hills and others went to the interior zone of the area. After yet another attack by French pirates in 1554, a group of residents moved to the port of Guayanilla and founded the Villa de Santa María de Güadianilla. They returned to the Santa Marta hills in 1565, however, due to a plague of mosquitoes and constant attacks by the Caribs.
In 1570, King Felipe II approved the official relocation of San Germán to the Santa Marta Hills and the move took place in 1573. Although Francisco Solís, the governor of the island at that time, preferred the name Nueva Salamanca for the town because he was born in Salamanca, the idea did not catch on. The residents insisted on calling the town San Germán, as we know it today.
In 1606, the priest Antonio Mejías founded the Porta Coeli (Gates of Heaven) Santo Domingo Convent. The residents contributed 210 cattle and 1,150 Spanish reales toward its construction. Originally, three Dominican monks lived in the convent and committed to offering 52 masses a year and teaching reading, Latin and philosophy to the young people of the town. The original church structure was decaying due to the passage of time and natural disasters, so between 1690 and 1710, a brick and masonry convent and chapel were built on the same site.
In his Geographic, Civil and Natural History of the Island of San Juan Bautista – Puerto Rico (1782), Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra described the San Germán of the 18th century. It had 411 homes in the urban center and 1,166 white families (7,958 persons) scattered across the entire territory. The main crop was coffee, but sugar cane, cotton, tobacco and vegetables were also grown and livestock was raised.
During the 19th century, particularly during the second half, San Germán experienced a marked social, political and economic development. The population grew to 32,424 residents and improvements were made to several structures, such as the San Germán de Auxerre church and the city hall, which were renovated in 1842. By the middle of the 19th century, San Germán was divided into the sectors of Ancones, Arenal, Benavento, Caín Alto, Caín Bajo, Duey, Guamá, Guanajibo, Guánica, Hormigueros, Indiera, Lajas Arriba, Lavadero y Jagüitas, Llanos, Tuna, Cotuy, Minillas, Montoso, Palmarejo, Retiro, Río Prieto, Sabana Eneas, Sabana Grande, Sabana Yeguas, San Germán Pueblo, Santuario de Lajas and Santuario del Rosario.
During the rest of the century, numerous changes were made in the composition of the municipality. Guánica was annexed to Yauco and some of the sectors of San Germán became part of other towns such as Hormigueros, Maricao and Lajas. The last of these changes took place later in 1940 when the Cotuy sector was officially renamed Cotuí.
On June 15, 1877, King Alfonso XII granted San Germán the title of city. By 1878, the economy was based mainly on sugar cane and, to a lesser degree, on coffee. There were two schools in operation and 12 were being built. In 1880, the Recreation Circle, a civic, cultural and social institution, was built, as was the San Germán Savings Bank, one of the first savings institutions on the island.
Improvements to the town’s infrastructure were completed in the early 20th century. A station was built for the train that circled the island. Later, in 1912, the Puerto Rico Polytechnic Institute was founded, and in 1956 it became the Inter-American University. In 1918, San Germán suffered the effects of an earthquake that struck the western part of the island. The San Germán de Auxerre church was damaged, so the residents made donations to pay for a restoration of the church.
In 1930, the San José School was accredited. The private school was very prestigious. In the same era, the municipality had more than twenty newspapers, among which were El Abanico, El Avisador, La Opinión, Alma Criolla, El Espejo, El Porvenir and El Pueblo.
The San Germán flag is made up of three horizontal bands. The first is green in color and represents the dignity of the church and alludes to the colors of the coat of arms of Christopher Columbus and his son, the viceroy of the Americas. The second band is white. It symbolizes the purity of the blood of the founding families of San Germán. It also represents the purity of the Guanajibo River, whose waters were transported to Europe because they were believed to have medicinal power. The third and final band is violet, the color of the coat of arms of Juan Ponce de León, first governor of Puerto Rico.
Coat of Arms
In the coat of arms , the miter and crosier from the church represent San Germán Auxerre, the municipality’s patron saint. The quarter sections to the right of these symbols are the coats of arms of Fernando, King of Aragon and Sicily. The quarter sections below the miter and crosier are the seals of Queen Germana of Foix, King Fernando’s second wife and in whose honor the city of San Germán was named. The final quarter section contains a lion that also appears on the coat of arms of Juan Ponce de León. Above the four quarter sections is a crowned wall with five towers. It is gold with green openings. The wall is the symbol of towns and municipalities.
Isidro A. Negrón Irizarry
Places of Interest
• Bolas Bridge
• Morales House
• Ceiba Liberty Tree
• Historic Gallery
• Lola Rodríguez de Tió House
• Ramírez de Arellano y Rossell Museum
• Santo Domingo Plaza
• Three Races Mural
• Porta Coeli Church
• City Hall
• San Germán de Auxerre Church
• Main Plaza
• Kings Plaza
• San Sebastián Chapel
• San Germán Park
• Monument to Santa Rosa de Lima
• Bahr House
• Sol Theater
• Alfredo Ramírez Research Center Museum
• Former Train Station
Juan Ponce de León Troche – Chronicler and grandson of the conquistador Juan Ponce de León.
Francisco Mariano Quiñones – Abolitionist leader, politician, historian and writer. He represented Puerto Rico before the Information Board in Madrid, where he advocated for the abolition of slavery. He wrote novels, essays and the Historia de los partidos Reformista y Conservador de Puerto Rico.
Ursula Cardona de Quiñones – Poet.
Lola Rodríguez de Tió – Poet and patriot who wrote the patriotic verses for La Borinqueña during the era of the Grito de Lares. She defended her separatist ideas and was forced into exile with her husband, Bonocio.
Manuel F. Rossy – Lawyer, journalist, orator and pro-statehood leader. He was a founding member and president of the Puerto Rican Republican Party and was president of the House of Delegates and House of Representatives.
Aurelio Tió – Historian. Among his works is the Fundación de San Germán y su significación en el desarrollo político, económico, social y cultural de Puerto Rico. He was president of the Puerto Rican Academy of History.
Coloma Pardo de Casablanca – Essayist and poet.
Santiago Palmer Díaz – Senator and delegate to the Commonwealth Constituent Convention.
Samuel R. Quiñones – One of the founders of the Popular Democratic Party and also a member of the Liberal Party.
Sila Nazario de Ferrer – Senator.
San Germán Auxerre Patron Saint Festival – July
Anón Festival – September
Christmas Festival – December
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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