Utuado, Puerto Rico

Utuado was founded in 1739. It is known as the «City of the Viví» and the town of «The Highlanders.» Its patron saint is San Miguel Arcángel. The municipality’s territory covers an area of 299 square kilometers (115 square miles). It consists of the sectors of: Utuado Pueblo, Angeles, Arenas, Caguana, Caníaco, Caonillas Arriba, Caonillas Abajo, Consejo, Don Alonso, Guaónico, Las Palmas, Limón, Mameyes Abajo, Paso Palmas, Río Abajo, Roncador, Sabana Grande, Salto Abajo, Salto Arriba, Santa Isabel, Santa Rosa, Tetuán, Viví Arriba and Viví Abajo. The municipality’s population is 35,336 (2000 Census). Utuado’s economy is mainly based on agriculture. Coffee and other fruits are grown. The municipality also has factories producing textiles and paper.

Utuado is the site of the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park, one of the most important Taino sites in Puerto Rico. It is estimated that this ceremonial center is more than 700 years old. The complex includes a large ceremonial plaza surrounded by petroglyphs.

Also located in the municipality are the ceremonial park in the Don Alonso sector, the Joya de Santana indigenous cemetery in the Viví Arriba sector, inscriptions and petrogylphs on rocks in the Jauca River in the Paso Palmas sector, and additional petroglyphs in the Salto Arriba sector.

Sport fishing is also available in Utuado’s Caonillas and Dos Bocas lakes, which have abundant catfish, sunfish and bass.

The municipality’s patron saint festival is held in late September in honor of San Miguel Arcángel. Other cultural festivals include the Otoao festival in December and the Angeles neighborhood festival in March.


Utuado is located in the mountainous central part of the island. It is bordered to the north by the municipalities of Hatillo and Arecibo, to the south by Adjuntas, Ponce and Jayuya, to the east by Ciales and Jayuya and to the west by Lares.

Geographically, it is part of the central mountainous interior and its highest elevations are found in the southern part of the municipality, which is part of the central mountain range. Among these elevations are Morales peak at 3,241 feet (988 meters ), mount La Chorrera at 2,953 feet (900 meters), the Roncador peak at 2,624 feet (800 meters ), and the Prieto peak at 2,749 feet (838 meters) above sea level.

The Buena Vista ridge, east of the Caonillas reservoir, rises to 1,640 feet (500 meters ) above sea level. Rainfall is abundant in the mountainous area. The town of Utuado is located in the middle of the Utuado Valley, in the center of the municipality.

Utuado includes several bodies of water. The Grande de Arecibo River crosses the southern part of the municipality and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Other rivers include the Guaónico, Viví, Caonillas, Caguanitas, Criminales, Limón and Tanamá. There are numerous streams, including the Arenas, Colorada, Conchita, Palma and Pasto streams.

The municipality has four reservoirs: Caonillas, Viví, Dos Bocas and Jordán. The first was built on the river of the same name, on the east side of Utuado. It is located at an elevation of 820 feet (249.9 meters) above sea level. The Viví dam is located to the south of the town of Utuado in the watershed of the river of the same name and at an elevation of 1,060 feet (323 meters).

The Dos Bocas dam was built at the confluence of the Grande de Arecibo, Caonillas and Limón rivers between the municipalities of Arecibo and Utuado at an altitude of 295 feet (89.9 meters) above sea level. Finally, the Jordán reservoir is a small lake formed on a branch of the Viví River. It is located to the northeast of the Viví dam. All are used to generate electricity.

Utuado is one of the municipalities in Puerto Rico with the greatest number of caves. Currently, twenty-three have been discovered. They are located in the Caguana, Don Alonso, Santa Rosa and Angeles sectors. The most important caves are located in the latter sector. They are known as Los Corozos and are found in the Camuy River watershed.

This municipality is also home to a forest that it shares with the municipality of Arecibo and is known as the Río Abajo State Forest. It is located west of the Dos Bocas Reservoir. It covers an area of approximately 2,280 hectares and its elevations range between 656.1 and 1,391 feet (200 and 424 meters). The forest has the limestone haystack hills called mogotes, as well as sinkholes and caves, all of which are characteristic of the karst region where it is located.

Utuado lies in the most important mining region in Puerto Rico. Among the minerals in its subsoil are gold, molybdenum, and copper.

The municipality’s name comes from the Taino chief Otoao, a great warrior who was the leader of the Tainos living in the region. The indigenous word otoao means «between mountains.» During the indigenous rebellion of 1511, Otoao was one of the warriors who fought under the command of Agüeybaná II, who was also called El Bravo. After Agüeybaná died in the battle of Yagüecas, Juan Ponce de León offered amnesty to the chiefs who gave up their fight against the Spanish. Otoao accepted the terms and was baptized with the name Alonso Manso. It is said that he was known as Don Alonso, the name now carried by one of the municipality’s sectors.

The first attempt to found a settlement in Otoao’s territory occurred during the first decades of the conquest. Various plantations had been established in the region. Among them was the one owned by Antonio Cedeño and Blas de Villasante, who were interested in founding a town on their respective estates. The governordecided the settlement should be established in another site, between Caparra and San Germán. The two Spanish landowners’ efforts did not succeed because both of them had trouble with the law. Cedeño was imprisoned and Villasante fled to Spain.

On December 19, 1553, Asencio de Villanueva requested permission to found the New Village of Otoao. He received the authorization, but on the condition that he bring fifty laborers and their families from Spain to settle in the area, because the region was populated only with Indians. Villanueva did not meet the requirement.

In 1733, Sebastián de Morfi, representing a group of Arecibo residents, asked the governor of the island, Matías de Abadía, for authorization to found a town on what was known as the Utuao ranch, which belonged at that time to Manuel Natal and his wife, Felipa Román. The following year, the residents acquired land from the Utuao ranch for 569 pesos and 5 reales. At that time, Utuado had 239 inhabitants.

After the arrival of sixty families from Arecibo, Second Lieutenant Miguel de Quiñones, the area commander, issued a document on October 12, 1739, reporting that he had organized the residents in planting their lands, building housing and collaborating in the construction of a church. On that date, the village of San Miguel de Utuao was officially founded.

On July 15, 1743, construction was completed on the church, which was devoted to San Miguel Arcángel. In March of 1744, the church’s first priest, Nicolás Quiñones, was installed. On November 26, 1746, the church became an independent parish of Arecibo because of the difficulty of transportation between the two sites. The name Utuado was first used in a baptism on February 27, 1745.

Utuado’s population experienced rapid growth. In the census of 1765, a population of 608 inhabitants was reported. By 1769, the year in which Utuado was assigned to the judicial district of Arecibo, the population had grown to 1,174 inhabitants.

In 1831, Utuado consisted of the sectors of Pueblo, Caguana, Don Alonso, Güaónico, Roncador, Arenas, Jayuya, Río Abajo, Salto Arriba and Salto Abajo, Sabana Grande, Viví and Caonillas. In 1853, the number of sectors increased. The sectors added were Caníaco, Santa Isabel, Paso de Palma, Mameyes, Limón and Angeles.

By the middle of the 19th century, the economy was centered on coffee. Between 1864 and 1885, 68 coffee farms were established. Corn, rice, cotton, tobacco and plantains were also cultivated.

Wood was harvested from its forests for dyes and resins for export products. The economic growth experienced in Utuado improved the social life in the municipality and a casino and a theater were founded in the town.

In 1874 more new sectors were incorporated: Tetuán, Alfonso XII and Norzagaray, which was subdivided into the sectors of Caonillas and Mameyes.

Almost two decades later, on August 20, 1894, Queen María Cristina granted the town of Utuado the title of city. In 1896, thanks to Mayor Francisco Pujols, Utuado become the second city in Puerto Rico with an electric generating plant. Three years later, three additional sectors were created: Consejo, Las Palmas and Santa Rosa.

By 1896, Utuado was first among the towns of Puerto Rico in the amount of area being farmed, at 8,897.23 hectares, followed by Ponce, with 6,483.27. It also led the towns in the amount of land dedicated to growing coffee, with 5,925.08 hectares, followed by Las Marías, with 4,311.41.

Utuado was occupied on August 3, 1898, by troops commanded by General Stone and General Henry of the U.S. military. With the change of sovereignty and the passage of Hurricane San Ciriaco (1899), the cultivation of coffee deteriorated notably. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the municipality and recommended the construction of the Playita bridge.

In 1910, the Utuado Sugar Company was founded. It only lasted ten years, as it could not compete economically with the huge central sugar mills of the coast. In 1911, the sectors of Jayuya Abajo, Jayuya Arriba and Mameyes Arriba were separated from Utuado to form the municipality of Jayuya.

Utuado participated in the Nationalist Revolt of 1950. The Utuado group originally consisted of 32 people who confronted the police and the National Guard.

The General Cigar company arrived in Utuado in 1960 and would employ more than 600 people. The municipality became one of the biggest producers of tobacco on the island. In 1974, there were 197 tobacco farmers assigned a quota of 7,015 quintales. The industry went into decline, and General Cigar was the last to cease operations in 1979.

During the 1990s, the coffee industry experienced a new resurgence, with Utuado becoming the second largest producer of coffee in Puerto Rico with 32,000 quintales produced on 1,143 farms.


The official flag  of Utuado was designed by local artist Luis E. Lafontaine and adopted by the municipal assembly of the municipality in 1987. It is divided into three bands: the upper band is green in color, the middle one is brown, and the lower one is light blue. The green band symbolizes the green mountains. The brown band symbolizes the fertile land of Utuado. And the light blue band is a symbol of the rivers and lakes in the municipality. The sun of Otoao, in the center, is a symbol of the Taino culture.

Coat of Arms
The municipality’s coat of arms  was designed by Dr. J. J. Santa Pinter de Arga and was adopted in 1981. Its heraldic description follows:

The image of a cemí appears on a blue field behind a silver sword with a gold hilt. The brown color of the cemí alludes to the color of the soil and refers to the rich pre-Columbian history and traditions. The sword signifies the conquest and colonization of the Taino culture.

On the right side is the figure, in gold, of the Woman of Caguana, a symbol of fertility; and on the left side are a pick and shovel in front of a silver lamp with a red flame. The gold pick and shovel are symbols of the mines and mineral wealth of the region, as well as its mining history.

At the base is a wavy silver band that symbolizes the Viví River. At the top is a gold crown with five arms, with an orange-brown band and a silver lining. The ribbon bears the inscription «City of the Viví.»

Hon. Alan J. González Cancel

Places of Interest 

• El Saltillo Falls
• Dos Bocas Lake
• Ivanet Gallery
• Roses Estate
• Monument to Utuado Soldiers
• Dos Bocas Dam
• Río Abajo Forest Preserve
• Hacienda Taína Workshop
• Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park

Illustrious Citizens

María Libertad Gómez – Educator and politician. She was one of the founders of the Popular Democratic Party and was vice president of the House of Representatives, over which she presided for a brief time in 1945. She also served as a delegate to the Constituent Convention of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. She founded the first tobacco cooperative on the island.

Isaac González Martínez 
– Physician. He was a pioneer in cancer research on the island and discovered the origin of various illnesses.

Ramón Juliá Marín
 – Wrote poetry, short stories and novels. His best works are the novels Tierra adentro and La gleba.

Jesús María Lago – Poet and painter.


* Otoao Cultural Festival – December
* Angeles Neighborhood Festival – March
* Tierra Adentro Festival – April
* Guarionex Festival – April
* Rosary of the Cross – May
* Patron Saint Festival – September


Text taken from enciclopediapr.org



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