Orocovis was founded in 1825. It is known as the “Heart of Puerto Rico” and the “geographic center of Puerto Rico” because it is located precisely in the center of the island. The patron saint is San Juan Bautista.
The territory of the municipality covers 63 square miles. The population is 23,844 orocoveños (2000 Census). The municipality is divided into the sectors of Orocovis-Pueblo, Ala de la Piedra, Barros, Bauta Abajo, Bauta Arriba, Bermejales, Botijas, Cacaos, Collores, Damián Abajo, Damián Arriba, Gato, Mata de Cañas, Orocovis, Pellejas, Sabana and Saltos.
Coffee, tobacco and fruits are grown in Orocovis. There are also livestock farms, small industries producing food products, and a factory that makes electrical equipment. Sport fishing is popular in the municipality in El Guineco and Matrullas Lakes, where shrimp, sunfish and bass are found.
Orocovis is bordered on the north by the municipalities of Ciales, Morovis and Corozal, on the south by Juana Díaz, Villalba and Coamo, on the east by the municipalities of Barranquitas and Corozal and on the west by Ciales.
Geographically, the municipality is part of the region known as the Cayey Range in the central mountain range, which is a mountainous zone. The municipality’s highest elevations are found to the south, on the border with the municipalities of Villalba and Coamo. These include the Pío at 901 feet (274.6 meters), the Toíta at 950 feet (289.5 meters) and the highest elevation, the Mogote, at approximately 1,079 feet (328.8 meters) in elevation. The Matacañas and Mime peaks are located in the Damián Arriba sector. The soil of Orocovis is prone to erosion, which makes it less suitable for mechanized agriculture. Part of the Toro Negro Forest is in Orocovis, along with the municipalities of Villalba, Ciales and Jayuya. It covers 7,000 cuerdas of land and is administered by the Forests Division of the Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture.
The hydrological system consists of the following bodies of water: the Toro Negro River, the Sana Muertos River and the Orocovis River. The Toro Negro forms in the Ala de la Piedra sector from its tributaries, the Matrullas and Bauta rivers and the Doña Juana, Palmar and Cacaos streams. This river is 32 kilometers (20 miles) in length. The Matrullas River originates in the Bauta Abajo sector and is fed by the Novillo stream. The Bauta forms in the Bauta Arriba sector and its tributaries are the Cangilones, Damián and Riachuelo streams and the Culebra River.
The Sana Muertos River originates in the Saltos sector. Its tributaries are the Barros, Ciénaga and Los Cabros streams. The Orocovis River forms in the Sabana sector. Its tributaries are the Botijas River and Los Saltos, El Gato and Grande streams.
Orocovis also has two lakes that serve as reservoirs: the Guineo, which is fed by the Toro Negro River, and the Matrullas, which is fed by the river of the same name, in the Bauta sector. To the north of the lake is the Toíta peak and to the southeast is La Francia peak. Matrullas is the second-largest reservoir on the island and is used to produce electricity, for fishing, for aquatic recreation and as a water source.
The name of the town is derived from that of the Taino Chief Orocobix, who ruled the territory that is known today as Aibonito, Barranquitas and Orocovis. During the Spanish colonial era, the municipality of Orocovis was a sector named Barros that was part of the municipalities of Morovis and Barranquitas. In the early decades of the 19th century, the Barros sector had about 75 rural families. Beginning at that time, the residents began making efforts to separate from Barranquitas. In 1825, Juan de Rivera Santiago, on behalf of his fellow residents, asked Governor Miguel de la Torre to authorize the founding of a town on the site of Barros.
The residents bought fourteen cuerdas of land from Eulalia de Rivera, who donated an additional cuerda to build a Kings House and other municipal facilities. Shortly thereafter, they requested authorization to move the town, as the site they had chosen was too far from sources of water. They also asked that the name of the town be changed to Orocovis. The governor agreed to the founding of a new municipality of Barros on November 10 of the same year, but he did not authorize the change of name.
In 1829, Barros was managed, along with a board of residents, by Juan de Rivera Santiago, who had the title of war commander. In 1838, the San Juan Bautista de Barros parish church was built and it was blessed and inaugurated on October 29 of the same year.
In 1875, the town suffered a huge fire that destroyed the church, the Kings House, the priest’s house and 22 homes. The mayor of the municipality at the time was José Sabino Arroyo. A year later, on September 12 and 13 of 1876, the municipality was severely lashed by the San Felipe Hurricane. It destroyed two bridges, a large number of houses and ruined coffee plantations and other crops.
In 1878, the municipality consisted of the sectors of Ala de la Piedra, Barros, Bauta Abajo, Bauta Arriba, Bermejales, Botijas, Cacaos, Collores, Damián Abajo, Damián Arriba, Gato, Mata de Caña, Orocovis, Pasto, Pellejas, Sabana and Saltos.
In the late 1920s, the Puerto Rico Legislature approved a Joint Resolution to change the name of the municipality from Barros to Orocovis, for the name of the Taino Chief Orocobix, who had ruled that territory. In 1948, the Puerto Rico Planning Board expanded the urban zone of the municipality to include a portion of the rural area of Orocovis, as part of the process of preparing the Map of the Municipality and Sectors of Orocovis. In 1974, Orocovis had two first-class dairy farms and 151 tobacco farms.
The Orocovis flag consists of five vertical bands: two green bands on either end and a blue band in the center, separated by two narrower white bands. The green bands represent the territories of Aibonito and Barranquitas and the two small white bands represent the territory ceded by the municipalities of Barranquitas and Morovis for the formation in 1825 of the municipality of Barros, which is known today as Orocovis. The central blue band alludes to the regional rule of the Chief Orocobix before colonization. On this band is an oval with seventeen rays that represent the territorial demarcations. The sun, as the central body in our solar system, was chosen to symbolize the position of the municipality in the geographic center of Puerto Rico.
Coat of Arms
The municipality’s coat of arms contains an oval, a symbol of the letter “O,” the initial of the town’s name. The oval is divided into four quadrants, in which appear elements representative of the town. In the upper left quadrant is a gold indigenous bust on a silver background, a symbol of the great Chief Orocobix. The Indian represents the Taino roots and noble bravery of the people. The indigenous profile looks toward the golden sun on a blue background that appears in the upper right quadrant and represents the municipality, with seventeen rays for the territorial demarcations. The sun is a symbol of the municipality as the geographic center of the island of Puerto Rico.
In the lower right quadrant is a plantain plant in silhouette, gold in color, on a silver background. The plantain represents the main source of sustenance, the fecundity of the soil and the love for the land, for nature, and for working the land.
A bridge, also gold in color and rendered in silhouette on a blue background, appears with a river in the lower left quadrant. The bridge is a symbol of the hospitality, communication and friendship with the neighboring towns. It is a structure that is also iconic of the municipality.
The gold crown with three towers that appears above the seal is the symbol of the category of the town. The colors of the coat of arms also have their meanings. The green represents the color of nature and is a symbol of the hope for progress that the land represents. The blue symbolizes sincerity and nobility of spirit. The silver and gold are references to the precious metals.
Places of Interest
• Indian Cave
• Lake Matrullas
• Orocovis Museum
• Taíno Refuge
Father Efraín Rodríguez Otero –Served as parish priest at the Caridad Church in Hato Rey and was secretary of social communications media for the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of San Juan.
Marcos Colón – Poet and prose writer. Contributed to numerous periodicals, some of which he founded. He wrote two books of verse: Pullas y pullitasand Volcán activo. He was elected as a member of the Provincial Academy of Fine Arts of Málaga, Spain (1923).
Ismael Rodríguez Bou – date Educator and writer. Rector of the University of Puerto Rico from 1974 to 1978. Member of the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language. He was permanent secretary of theCouncil of High Education, director of the Office of Pedagogical Research, advisor to UNESCO, president of the General Council of the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music (1987-1989) and president of the Educational Reform Committee (1988). He took part in educational missions to India and Latin America. He is the author of various works on the topic of education. Selected asHumanista del año in 1992 by the Puerto Rican National Endowment of Humanities.
Agustín Burgos Rivera – Distinguished Puerto Rican politician. He was a delegate to the first Pro Independence Congress (1943) and the Constituent Convention of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. An active member of the Popular Democratic Party, in 1944 he was elected to the House of Representatives, where he presided over the Commerce Committee, and he was senator from 1949 to 1964.
Jenaro Collazo Collazo – Sociologist. He was a professor at the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico and senior member of the social sciences Faculty at the Río Piedras Campus of the same university. He served as secretary of the Department of Social Services in the administration ofGovernor Carlos Romero Barceló.
Celestino Avilés –Artisan. He carved saints from wood. He was the organizer of the Encuentro Nacional de Santeros that was held annually in Orocovis from 1983 on. In 2001, he won the National Heritage Prize granted by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Andrés (El Jíbaro) Jiménez – Singer and songwriter of Puerto Rican folk music. Represented Puerto Rico in the Tenth Youth Festival in Germany and the First Latin American People Sing Festival in Cuba.
Children’s Theater Festival – April
Patron Saint Festival – June
Shrimp Festival – July
Artisan Fair – September
Youth Festival – October
Puerto Rican National Meat Pie Festival – November
Text taken from enciclopediapr.org
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