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Coordinates: 17°58′18″N 66°54′29″W / 17.9716330°N 66.9079537°W / 17.9716330; -66.9079537

Guánica, Puerto Rico

Nickname(s): Pueblo de la Amistad", "El Pueblo de las Doce Calles", "Puerta de la Cultura
Location of Guánica, Puerto Rico within Puerto Rico.
Coordinates: 17°58′18″N 66°54′29″W / 17.97167°N 66.90806°W / 17.97167; -66.90806
Country United States
Territory Puerto Rico
Founded 1508
 - Mayor Martín Vargas Morales (PPD)
 - Senatorial dist. 5 - Ponce
 - Representative dist. 21
 - Total 53.4 sq mi (138.35 km2)
 - Land 37.1 sq mi (96 km2)
 - Water 16.4 sq mi (42.35 km2)
Population (2000)
 - Total 21,888
 Density 597.3/sq mi (230.6/km2)
 - Gentilic Guaniqueños
Time zone AST (UTC-4)
FIPS code 72-31189[1]
GNIS feature ID 1610855[2]
Anthem – "América es jardín del mundo"
Guánica Bay boardwalk (El Malecón)

Guánica (GWAH-nee-kah) is a municipality in southwestern Puerto Rico located on southern coast, bordering the Caribbean Sea, south of Sabana Grande, east of Lajas, and west of Yauco. It is part of the Yauco Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Guánica's postal zip code is 00653 and telephone area codes are 787 and 939. The urban area of Ensenada has a separate postal zip code of 00647.

Guánica is also the name of the principal town of the municipality. The town's population in 2000 was 9,247 persons among 3,808 housing units over a land area of 2.49 square miles (6.45 km2). The town is located on a deeply indented harbor of the same name. The harbor resembles a tropical fjord, narrow and bordered by rugged hills, barely a quarter-mile wide, but about two miles (3 km) from mouth to the town. The town is about 100 miles (160 km) and over two hours driving distance from San Juan, the capital city of the island, and about 20 miles (30 km) west of Ponce, another principal city of the island commonwealth.





American troops landing at Guánica in 1898, by Howard Chandler Christy

Juan Ponce de León landed in the Guánica harbor on August 12, 1508 and founded a town called Guaynía, a word derived from the Taíno indigenous culture that possibly meant "Here is a place with water". The town, considered the capital of the island of Puerto Rico (which was at that time named Isla de San Juan Bautista), was destroyed during the indigenous uprising of 1511, and the area was abandoned by Europeans for some years, during which time San Juan (itself at first called Puerto Rico) became the capital of the island. The refounded town of Guánica was at first a part of the municipality of Yauco until Guánica was established as a separate municipality on March 13, 1914. Víctor Ángel Sallaberry Safini was Guánica's first mayor.


On July 25, 1898 USA troops (who included the young poet-writer Carl Sandburg and were led by General Nelson A. Miles) landed in Guánica as part of the course of the Spanish-American War. This invasion led to Puerto Rico being acquired by the United States. The invasion, just one small part of the war between Spain and United States, occurred in Guánica due to its sheltered harbor and proximity to Ponce, besides being such an unexpected site for such an attack, which had been anticipated at the heavily fortified city of San Juan. The invasion is commemorated by a contentious monument on the waterfront: along a broad paseo (el malecón), there is a large coral boulder marked by the carved words, "3rd Battalion, 1st U.S.V. Engineers, September 16, 1898." July 25 was subsequently commemorated in Puerto Rico as Occupation Day, later renamed Constitution Day (see Public holidays in Puerto Rico).


Guánica is a modern town that maintains roots and connections to a traditional past. Known as el pueblo de la amistad (the friendly town), is also occasionally referred to as el pueblo de las doce calles (the town of the twelve streets). The central part of town consists of five streets running north-south crossing seven other streets that run east-west, resulting in a compact grid of 24 square blocks, one of which is the town plaza. Facing the plaza is the Catholic church, city hall, a school, and many shops; the plaza itself contains greenery, walks, and a music stand. In recent years this central area of the twelve streets has been extensively supplemented by suburbs in the south and west. Hills surround the town and harbor, including the 450-foot (140 m) hill to the east of town, itself topped by the tiny Fort Caprón. Two large factories, one producing fertilizer, partially distract the eye from the pleasant landscape, but both have been important to the economy of the town, at one time dominated by the sugar plantations of Central Guanica. The resort chain known as Club Med once attempted to set up a luxury resort on beaches east of the town, but withdrew due to local opposition which was apprehensive about both environmental and community degradation; east of the town some 200 acres (0.8 km2) of land, including three miles (5 km) of beach, have been intermittently for sale. It is a fishing village. Commercial fishermen still ply their traditional trade beyond the harbor entrance.


The five waves, blue and yellow represent the Guánica Bay, a fragment of the Official Shield of Guánica.

Coat of Arms

Shield divided in four quarters. In the superior right side, it has a "bohio" (hut) under a crown that represents Cacique Agüeybaná, whose yucayeque (Indian territory) was in this region. In the superior left quarter, a lion representing Juan Ponce de León. The checkered strips over a silver-plated background in the inferior right side represent the shields of Don Cristóbal de Sotomayor, founder of the town of Tavara, the actual location of Guánica. The waved stripes represent the bay of this town. The branches surrounding the shield represent the sugar cane industry that was very important in this region.


Barrios (Districts/Wards)[3]

  • Arena
  • Caño
  • Carenero
  • Ciénaga
  • Ensenada
  • Guanica Pueblo
  • Magueyes
  • Montalva
  • Susuá Baja
  • Belgica
  • Pozo Prieto
  • Reparto Oasis
  • La Joya

Geography and topography

Guánica State Forest (Bosque Estatal de Guánica) is also the name of a small dry forest reserve east and west of the town, the largest remaining tract of tropical dry coastal forest in the world, and designated an international Biosphere Reserve in 1981. The park comprising much of the dry forest is known as el bosque seco de Guánica.

Highway Route 116, the nearest principal road, heads west toward San Germán and east toward Ponce, passing through the island of Puerto Rico's driest area. The largely intact forest of the Guánica Dry Forest reserve hosts the greatest number of bird species found on the island, including several bird species seldom found anywhere else: the Puerto Rican Lizard‑Cuckoo, Puerto Rican Woodpecker, the Puerto Rican Nightjar, and the Puerto Rican Emerald hummingbird. Other animals thought to be extinct in PR have turned up in this forest. Many different types of cactus grow here, a stunning contrast to the lush Caribbean National Forest in the northeast part of the island, which is a tropical rain forest. The contrast is due to the mountain ridge Cordillera Central which separates Guánica from the northeast part of the island; while the northeast receives over 100 inches (2,500 mm) of precipitation each year, Guánica receives less than 30, and some regions of the forest reserve receive are said to receive only six inches.

The forest reserve of some 9,500 acres (38 km2) contains 36 miles (58 km) of trails through four different forest types: deciduous trees, a coastal region with tree-size milkweed and nine-foot-tall prickly pear cactus, a mahogany forest, and twisted gumbo limbo trees. There are about 700 varieties of plants, including aroma (acacia) and guayacan (lignum vitae - Latin for wood of life). One guayacan is about 500-700 years old. The squat melon cactus and other cacti can be found here along with 40 species of birds, including the guabairo (Puerto Rican Nightjar), found nowhere else. Also in the area are a crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) and, sometimes on the beaches, green and leatherback turtles, though their eggs suffer severe predation from mongooses one time introduced to fight rats in sugar cane fields.

The forest office can be reached at 787-821-5706. The view of the bay and town from the stone tower at the top of Cerro Caprón make it worth the hike up the 450-foot (140 m) hill. Thirty-six miles of trails and ten miles (16 km) of undeveloped coastline, with peculiar limestone caves along the western side of the harbor make it a special place. Highway route 325 leads west to Point Jorobado and good snorkeling. Route 333 leads east by a small but beautifully situated park at the base of a cliff, and past the Guánica Lighthouse, now in disrepair with restoration plans ahead. Route 333 follows the coast, bordered with mangroves, to Balneario Caña Gorda, by the Copamarina Resort. There are several good seafood restaurants in town and at the end of this road; the end of the road is also a favorite bird watching area. Nearby are several mountain biking trails, fantastic beaches, and the Ballena Bay refuge for turtles, birds, and other wildlife. This refuge narrowly escaped Club Med's development plans. Its peculiar though precarious natural state makes the region a place of great beauty and scientific importance.



  • Salt and Sugarcane


  • Manufacture (apparel)


Landmarks and places of interest

  • Azul Beach
  • Ballena Bay
  • Caprón Fortress
  • Cayo Aurora, Gilligan's Island
  • El Malecón (Boardwalk)
  • Farmacia Quesada
  • Guánica Bay
  • Guánica Hacienda
  • Manglillo Beach
  • Mary Lee's By the Sea
  • Mimi's Guest House
  • Guánica Lighthouse
  • [1] Playa Santa Beach
  • Playa Rosada Beach
  • Punta de Brea
  • Punta Jorobao
  • Santa Rita Hacienda
  • Serra Beach
  • Central Guanica (Sugar Cane Refinery)

Festivals and events

  • Fish Festival - April
  • Patron Festivities - Julio
  • July 25 Parade - July
  • Juan Ponce de León Celebration - August

Notable "Guaniqueños"

  • Agüeybaná and Agüeybaná II, Taíno chiefs
  • Primitivo Anglada, activist in obtaining Guánica’s municipal independence; first secretary of the Town Council
  • Domingo Bracero Hernández
  • Jaime Cancel
  • Rose Franco (1932- ), first Puerto Rican woman Chief Warrant Officer in U.S. Marine Corps
  • Luis A Nieves Lopez
  • Miguel A Morciglio, member of the House of Representatives for District 24 (1961-1964)
  • Reynaldo Rodriguez, Private First Class, U.S. Army, recipient of The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Vietnam
  • Dominga "Fidela" Olivera Martinez, Local Poet
  • Julio Victor Ramirez Torres, journalist for El Vocero , radio and television producer
  • Rubén del Rosario – Educator, writer, and linguist.
  • Víctor Ángel Sallaberry Safini, first elected mayor and principal founding father of the municipality
  • Pedro Santana Ronda, writer, poet, and journalist published in the weekly paper El Erizo
  • Hilda Siurano, singer (Mingo and the Whoppie Kids, Famous Ponce Orchestra)
  • Domingo Suárez Cruz, civic leader, orator, writer, & keeper of the Guánica Lighthouse; public library named in his honor
  • Lolita (Carmen Ramirez) Vargas, singer-actress-educator, daughter to Maria H Vargas
  • Maria Heliodora Vargas (1908-1991), educator, author of poem La Bandera de los Guaniqueňos, daughter to Pedro Vargas Rodriguez
  • Pedro Vinicio Vargas, musician and singer, composed songs about Puerto Rico and Guánica, son to Pedro Vargas Rodriguez
  • Pedro Vargas Rodríguez (1888-1930), secretary of the Separation Committee that achieved the emancipation of the municipality; poet, orator, musician, writer, journalist, & founder of El Fósforo (1908) and Brisas del Caribe (1915), the first newspapers in Guánica; also known as Vardriguez
  • Pedro Juan Vargas Mercado, journalist and historian
  • Víctor Guillermo "Yomo" Toro Vega (1933- ), is noted for pioneering the use of the cuatro in salsa music, member of the Fania All-Stars
  • Rogelio "Kito" Velez-Feliciano, bandleader, composer, trumpet player, member of "Cesar Concepcion Band", musical director of "Cortijo y Su Combo", co-founder of the "El Gran Combo"; composer of "Ojos Chinos", "Jala Jala Para Gozar", "Casabe Sabe".
  • Jean P. Villa , New Progressive Party co-Founder


  • Torres, Angel Luis, Walter Torres, and Miguel Casals. En el Bosque Seco de Guánica. San Juan, Puerto Rico: La Editorial Universidad de Puerto Rico (Colección San Pedrito), 1995. ISBN 0847702073 - Children's picture book about a trip through the dry forest of Guánica with a sea turtle. (Spanish)


External links


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