Ponce

(PON-sai)

With a population of 194,636, Ponce is Puerto Rico's second largest city (San juan is the first and Mayaguez is the third). Ponce is commonly known by several names: "La Perla del Sur" (Pearl of the South), "La Ciudad de los Leones" (City of Lions), or "La Ciudad de las Quenepas" (Genip City). Ponce is also known as the "Ciudad Señorial" (Majestic or Noble City), because of its many beautiful neoclassical buildings and facades.

Ponce was founded in 1692 by Juan Ponce de León's great-grandson - Loíza Ponce de León. Ponce was Spain's capital of the southern region until it fell to the U.S. in 1898.

Ponce is located in the Southern Coastal Plain region (about 5 km (3 mi) from the south central coast of the island), south of Adjuntas, Utuado and Jayuya; east of Peñuelas; and west of Juana Díaz. The annual precipitation is approximately 36 inches on the coast and 48 inches in the interior and the average temperature is 75°F.

Nearly one half a billion dollars have been spent preserving the colonial core of Ponce. The heart of Ponce dates from the late 17th century and has been declared a national treasure. It consists of plazas and churches and highly decorative colonial homes, some glorious fountains and a unique fire station.

Ponce is an important trading and distribution center, and has a port of entry; Playa de Ponce Port is one of the busiest ports in the Caribbean area, handles tobacco, coffee, rum, and sugar cane.

Ponce is divided into 20 barrios, including the downtown area: Anón, Bucaná, Canas, Capitanejo, Cerrillos, Coto Laurel, Guaraguao, Machuelo, Maguelles, Maraguez, Marueño, Monte Llano, Portugués, Pueblo, Quebrada Limón, Real, Sabanetas, San Patricio, Tibes and Vayas.

Rivers: San Patricio, Cerrillos, Chiquitos, Inabon, Pastillo, Canañas, Bucana, and Portugués.

Symbols

Flag
The flag consist of a rectangular cloth divided by a diagonal line, creating two equal isosceles triangles, starting from the top left hand corner and ending on the lower right hand corner. The top triangle is red; the bottom triangle is black. In the center of the flag sits the shield of the municipality. Under this shield is the number 1877, the year of the founding of the city, and above the shield is the word Ponce.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms of the municipality is based on the design of the official mayoral seal that was adopted in 1844 under the administration of mayor Salvador de Vives. The coat of arms of Ponce consists of a escutcheon (shield) in the Spanish tradition. This shield has a field with a party per bend division. The division runs from top left to bottom right. The field is read and black, bordered with a fine golden line. In the center of the shield is the figure of an erect lion standing on a bridge. The top of the bridge is a golden, the middle is red bricks, and the base foundation is gray rocks. Under the bridge there are gray wavy lines. Over the shield rests a five-tower golden stone wall with openings in the form of red windows. To the left of the shield is a coffee tree branch with its fruit, and to the right of the shield is a sugar cane stalk. The symbols of the shield are as follows: The field represents the flag of the municipality of Ponce, divided diagonally in the traditional city colors: red and black. The lion over the bridge alludes to the last name of the conqueror and first governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de Leon. The waves under the bridge allude to the Rio Portugues, on the banks of which the city was born. The coronet in the form of a five-tower mural crown above the shield allude to the Spanish crown, through which the settlement obtained its city charter. The coffee tree branch and the sugar cane stalk represent the main agricultural basis of the economy of the young municipality.

Anthem: Oh, Ponce! En mi corazón...


Land Area: 116.0 sq mi (302 sq km)
Water Area: 78.88 sq mi (204.31 sq km)
Population: 194,636 (2000)
Density: 1,607.5 per sq mi (669.8 per sq km) (2000)
Housing Units: 66,471 (2000)
Housing Density: 579.4 (2000)
Per Capita Income: $7,276 (2000)
Coordinates: 18°00"N 66°37"W
ZIP Codes: 00715, 00716, 00717, 00728, 00730, 00731, 00732, 00733, 00734, 00780
Driving Distance: 76.7 miles (from San Juan)
Driving Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes · Get Directions *

Points of Interest

The beautiful downtown Plaza de las Delicias is a worthwhile stop, with lovely fountains, a cathedral and local bench sitting denizens. The unique red and black, century old wooden firehouse, commonly known as "Parque de Bombas" is a landmark and still in use. Parque de Bombas originally built in 1882 for an exposition and from 1883 to 1989 it served as headquarters of the Ponce Fire Corps. In 1990, the firehouse was reopened as a museum, there are exhibits on the second floor, and the municipal band plays a free concert every Sunday night.

Other interesting buildings around the plaza include Casa Alcaldía (city hall), the oldest colonial building in the city, dating to the 1840s. Nearby sits Casa Armstrong-Poventud a magnificent example of the neoclassical architectural heritage of the island.

The Museum of Puerto Rican Music traces the rich musical history of the island through memorabilia of famous musicians and displays of Indian, Spanish and African musical instruments. Open Wednesday-Sunday 9 am - noon and 1-5:30 pm; free admission; 70 Christina St., 787-844-9722.

The world class Ponce Museum of Art, designed by Edward Durrell Stone (Museum of Modern Art, NY), is the only museum of stature, houses the most extensive art collection in the Caribbean. Located on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, 90 minutes from San Juan. The museum was donated by a foundation established by Luis A Ferré (Governor 1968-72). The building, with seven interconnected hexagons, glass cupolas and a pair of curved staircases, contains one of the most important pre-Raphaelite collections in the western hemisphere. The museum houses more than 1,000 paintings and 400 sculptures, including the finest collection of European works in the Caribbean, such as works by Velasquez, Rubens and Rodin. Many important Puerto Rican pieces are included in the collection, some Inca pottery and even Thai pieces. The museum also offers exhibits by contemporary Puerto Rican artists. Open daily 10am - 5pm. Admission: Adults $4, children $2, (787) 848-0511 or (787) 848-0505.

"La Guancha Paseo Tablado", the boardwalk, is a fun stop where you can loiter with lively local Ponceños-the teen scene, elders and the toddler-mamma set. The pier here is the departure point for a regularly scheduled weekend ferry to "Caja de Muertos" (Coffin Island or Dead Box Island), a small island of pristine beaches, an old lighthouse (built in 1887) and a marked snorkel trail (under construction). Ferry services: Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 9am and return to 5pm.

For a incredible view of how the mountains meet the sea at Ponce, drive to the summit of El Vigia Hill, where scouts once scanned for attacking ships. Visitors can ascend "Virgin's Cross" (La Cruz del Vigia), a 100-foot observation tower, and view of Ponce and Caja de Muertos. Built in 1984, the cross is a memorial to the Spanish garrison established atop of the hill to watch for smugglers' ships attempting to unload contraband on the southern coastline of Puerto Rico back in 1801.

Castillo Serralles (Serralles Castle) located near to El Vigia Hill, is a lovely landscaped former residence of the most powerful rum-producing families, the Serralles family, producers of Don Q rum. The Serralles Castle is a magnificent example of Spanish Revival architecture, popular in the 1920's; indoor patio with fountains, beautiful formal gardens paralleling the style of the house, well-manicured flame of jungle plants growing in a pattern that matches the ironwork on the house. It was designed by architect Pedro de Castro and was completed in the early 1930's. Open Thu-Sun 9:30am-5:30pm, admissions $3.00, children $1.50, groups must reserve in advance, (787) 259-1774.

Nearby is the Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center discovered in 1975 after hurricane rains uncovered pottery and only a small portion has so far been excavated, is site of the oldest cemetery uncovered up to date in the Antilles, with some 200 skeletons unearthed from AD300, is considered the largest and the most important archaeological finds in the West Indies. These ancient Indian sites include seven bateyes (ball fields), some carved with petroglyphs, said to have been used for a soccer like game. On one of two dance grounds, stones line up with the sun during the equinox and solstice, making Tibes a pre-Columbian astronomical observatory. This archeological discovery affirms that the Igneri Indians (pre-Taino) did not completely disappear without leaving traces of their existence other than samples of ceramic pottery. At Tibes, there is proof that the Igneris were farmers, fishermen, and hunters of birds and small animals. The site is now a tourist attraction which is open to the public. There is a reconstructed Taíno village with thatched roof bamboo huts. Open Tues-Sun, 9am - 4pm, admission US$2 for adults, US$2 for children, (787) 840-2255.

The Museo de la Historia de Ponce (Museum of the History of Ponce) displays documents, objects and relics related to the historical development of the city. The musuem opened its doors in 1992 and it was the first museum in Puerto Rico totally devoted to the history of the people of a city. Located at 53 Calle Isabel. Open Wed-Mon, 9am-5pm, admission US $3 for adults, US $1 for children, (787) 844-7071.

Hacienda Buena Vista also known as Hacienda Vives (Buena Vista Plantation) was built in 1833 originally devoted to growing fruits, converted into a coffee plantation and corn mill in 1845 and in operation till 1937, and restored by Fideicomiso de Conservación de Puerto Rico. All the machinery works (the metal parts are original), operated by water channeled from the 360m Vives waterfall; the hydraulic turbine which turns the corn mill is unique. Located at Rte. 10, Barrio Magüeyes, km 16.8. Open Fri-Sun, tours at 8:30am, 10:30am, 13:30am and 15:30am; groups of 20 or more admitted Wed and Thur; US$5 adults, US$1 children under 12. Reservations are required. Weekdays (787) 722-5882, weekends (787) 848-7020.

South of Ponce you can find Cardona island, where a 19th century lighthouse still stands.

Ponce ships coffee, tobacco, molasses, rum, and bananas and other tropical fruits. Its principal manufactures include textiles, shoes, cement, paper, electrical devices, and metal products. Industries include tourism, the processing of agricultural products, rum distilling, canning, and diamond cutting.

There are many well-known "ponceños", among them: composer and musician Juan Morel Campos, Pedro Albizu Campos, singer Ednita Nazario, former governor and founder of the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico Luis A. Ferré, tenor Antonio Paoli, founder of Destilería Serralles Juan Serrallés, Pedro Albizu Campos, former governor Rafael Hernandez Colón, and Juan Rosario Ferré.

Festivals and Events

  • Festival de Teatro Luis Torres Nadal - February
    The Teatro La Perla in Ponce holds an annual theater festival in honor of Luis Torres Nadal. The festival features productions by local theater companies and musicians. Tickets $10-$11.
  • Ponce Crafts Fair - March
    Ponce celebrates every year the famous "Feria Artesenal". the celebration includes dance, music, food and exhibits by artisans from several cities of the island.
  • Festival Playa de Ponce - May
  • Semana de la Danza - May
    Ponce celebrates historical-cultural events commemorating the danza, a popular turn-of-the-century ballroom dance. The festivities (held in Teatro La Perla) includes conferences, danza concerts by string quartets, a parade, a danza competition and demonstrations by senior couples who danced danza in their youth, in period dress.
  • Festival de Bomba y Plena - November
    Fiestas Patronales de Nuestra Senora de la Guadalupe - December
  • Every year, Ponce celebrates a patron saint festival. The festivities include dances, food, parades and religious processions.
  • Las Mañanitas - December
    Ponce celebrates every year a religious procession in honor of Ponce's and Mexico's patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe. The first song sung by the troubadours is the traditional Mexican birthday song "Las Mañanitas."

10 Day Forecast

Schools

Other Resources


Book your Trip!

Did You Know?

The term "china" originated from a brand of oranges that came to Puerto Rico in the 19th century, advertised as names "Naranjas de la China/Oranges from China" China in PR is the color orange and the fruit. naranja, which is used for oranges in most Spanish speaking countries, only refers to the bitter orange in Puerto Rico.