The municipality of Guayama is known as the “Town of the Witches” and the “City of the Guamaní.” The patron saint of Guayama is Saint Anthony of Padua. The name of the municipality comes from the Taino chief Guayama, who, according to documentation on the municipality, participated in the Taino revolt of 1511 and was later captured and deported to Hispaniola by Juan González. In the Arawak language, Guayama means “the big site.”
Guayama has an area of 169.7 square kilometers, or 65 square miles. According to the 2000 Census, it has 44,301 residents. Guayama consists of the sectors of Guayama Pueblo, Algarrobo, Pozo Hondo, Caimital, Carite, Carmen, Guamaní, Jobos, Machete and Palmas.
Guayama is bordered on the north by the municipality of Cayey, on the east by Patillas and Arroyo, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west by Salinas. Although it is part of the southern coastal plain, the Jájome range 2,395 feet high (730 meters) and Cayey range rise to the north of the municipality. The highest points in Guayama are Cerro de la Tabla and Cerro Tumbado, which are part of the Cayey mountain range mentioned above. Other peaks in the municipality are Garau, Charcas and Peña Hendida.
The municipality’s hydrographic system consists of La Plata, Chiquito, Guamaní and Seco Rivers; the Palmas Bajas, Culebra, Barros, Cimarrona, Salada, Corazón and Branderí streams; the Carite Reservoir, Melania Lake and Las Mareas Lagoon. La Plata River and its tributary, the Chiquito River, irrigate the northern part of the municipality.
The Guamaní River forms in the sector of the same name and runs approximately 15 kilometers or 9.5 miles. The Seco River originates in the Pozo Hondo sector and extends for 13.5 kilometers or 8.5 miles. Among its forest resources is one of the segments of the Aguirre Forest, located in the Caribe sector in the mountainous interior region. This forest is the habitat of more than 60 species of birds. Additionally, another area of the municipality forms part of the Carite-Guavate unit, administered by the Forests Division of the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture.
In the coastal area of Guayama are the mangrove swamps of Las Mareas, Puerto de Jobos and Punta Pozuelo. These are about 413 hectares in size. The black and the white mangroves are abundant in Las Mareas, as is the red mangrove in Punta Pozuelo.
During the first years of the colonization, the territory we know today as Guayama was inhabited by the Tainos. The indigenous population diminished in this region due to enslavement and the migration by the Tainos to the Lesser Antilles. In the following centuries, the region was subject to attacks by rebellious Tainos, Caribes, and pirates, which reduced the population in the region for a long period of time.
In the 18th century, a small village began to form around a chapel erected in honor of Saint Anthony of Padua. On January 29, 1736, the governor of the island, Matías de Abadía, authorized the founding of thetown of Guayama. For that purpose, a church was built in honor of the same saint as the chapel, and a parish was founded. In that era, the port of Guayama was very active and was considered the third most important throughout the island.
In 1776, Brother Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra, a chronicler of his times, described the territory of Guayama as a settlement of some two hundred houses, a church and a plaza. The total population was about 5,000 residents. Abbad y Lasierra also mentioned the existence of black markets for smuggled lumber and livestock. In that era, Guayama had nine ranches and twenty farms, where coffee, rice, corn, tobacco and fruits were grown.
Between 1824 and 1827, the church was rebuilt, and in 1828 construction of a new Kings House was concluded. At the beginning of that same year, Guayama was affected by a terrible fire that began in the local residence of Francisco A. Ortiz. The flames destroyed 57 houses and nine huts.
The territory of Guayama was altered on various occasions over the years. Some of the more populous neighborhoods were separated to form new towns. Patillas, which had been declared part of the Guayama parish in 1805 was made an independent municipality in 1811. In 1831, the territory of Guayama consisted of the sectors of Algarrobos, Ancones, Arroyo, Carreras, Guayama Pueblo, Guamaní, Jobos, Machete and Yaurel. Later, Arroyo was divided into Arroyo East and Arroyo West and the sectors of Pozo Hondo, Palmas de Aguamanil, Caimital, Pitajayas, Cuatro Calles, Sabana Eneas, Palmas and Salinas were formed. The latter had been separated from the municipality of Coamo.
In 1855, Arroyo was separated and became an independent municipality, taking with it the sectors of Ancones, Arroyo, Yaurel, Pitajaya and Cuatro Calles. In 1878, Guayama was the seat of government for the department that included Comerío (then called Sabana del Palmar), Cidra, Cayey, Salinas, Arroyo, San Lorenzo (then called Hato Grande), Aguas Buenas, Caguas, Gurabo and Juncos.
Municipal development continued with the construction of the cemetery in 1844; the slaughterhouse and butcher shop in 1851 and a two-story theater of wood construction in 1878. Also, at that time, Guayama had fourteen sugar plantations that operated with steam-powered machinery and three with presses powered by oxen. A lead mine was operated by the business “La Estrella,” owned by Miguel Planellas and the company “La Rosita,” owned by Antonio Aponte, mined lead ore.
On August 12, 1898 Guayama was taken by United States troops. After the Spanish-American War, the municipality continued to develop. In 1913, the Bernardini Theater, built by engineer Manuel Texidor y Alcalá del Olmo, was opened. Artists of international fame appeared at the theater, which was owned by Tomás Bernardini. In this era, Guayama was considered one of the most important communities in Puerto Rico in the social order.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the municipality had selective societies such as the Derkes Coliseum and the Primavera Group that held literary festivals, scientific discussions and theatrical productions.
By the middle of the 20th century, Guayama had achieved significant industrial development, including the arrival of the Univis Optical Corp., the Angela Manufacturing Company and the establishment of a petrochemical complex by the Philips Petroleum Company. In 1968, that company began production of paraffin, benzene, synthetic fibers, anhydrous plastic, a million gallons of gasoline daily and many other products.
In that same decade, a thermoelectric plant was built in Las Mareas sector. From that time, agriculture declined as a result of land lost to industrialization and the construction of urbanizations. The urban growth impacted the planting of sugar cane. As a result, 155,595 tones of cane were harvested in 1974, producing 12,655 tons of sugar.
The flag of Guayama consists of three stripes: one black, one yellow, and one red. The black stripe symbolizes the African race in Puerto Rico; the yellow, the wealth generated by sugar cane; and the red, the blood spilled by the indigenous Indians.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms is divided into four parts. Two of these show part of a chess board. The geometric formation makes reference to the square, even formation of the Guayama urban area. The coat of arms also displays two old mill towers that symbolize the cultivation of sugar cane. Also within the seal are elements that are characteristic of the landscape and history of the town.
The laurel trees represent the main plaza in Guayama, which is well known for the unique pruning of its trees. The three silver fleurs de lis symbolize Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of Guayama. The crown represents the Taino chief Guayama, for whom the town was named. The branches with guayaba fruit that surround the seal allude to the legend about the origin of the town: the appearance of Saint Anthony of Padua floating above a guayaba tree.
The large crown has four towers that represent the municipal autonomy and the unity of its citizens in the defense of its historic traditions and the common good. In the upper part is the crown that signifies that Guayama was officially named a “Villa.”
Places of Interest
• Bust of Luis Palés Matos
• Punta de las Figuras Lighthouse
• San Antonio de Padua Church
• Carite Lake
• Las Mareas
• Vives Mill
• Pozuelo Beach
• Rodeo Beach
Luis Palés Matos Poet. One of the founders of the Diepalismo Movement. Among his works are Azaleas, El Palacio en Sombras and Tuntún de Pasa y Grifería, among others.
Catalino ‘Tite’ Curet Alonso Musical composer. His songs were sung by many international figures, such as La Lupe, Celia Cruz and Ismael Miranda, among others.
Eleuterio Derkes (1836-1883) Poet, playwright, journalist and essayist.
Luis Rivera. Pianist and composer specializing in religious music and awarded the gold medal in 1917 for his composition Ensueños.
Francisco Porrata Doria Architect. He designed the Old Bank of Ponce. among other historical buildings. He was mayor of Guayama 1933-1938.
Vicente Palés Anés Father of Luis Palés Matos and patriarch of a family of poets. He contributed to periodicals of his era. He published two small books of verse: A la masonería (1886) and El cementerio (1889).
• Witches Carnival – March
• Guayama Carnival – April
• Sweet Dreams Fair – March
• Paso Fino Fair – March
• Saint Anthony of Padua Patron Saint Festival – June
• Jíbaro Festival – October
• Puerto Rican Week – December
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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