Guánica, Kicked Back on a Saturday
I had previously reported about the Dry Forest of Guánica, but did not make it into town. Now I’m back to fill in some details.
This IS by far the driest, hottest place on the island.
It was a clear day in August so yes, it was hot, but not muggy. There was also a nice breeze too, since we were right on the coast. If you are from the Southern United States, you’ll feel right at home. Ya’ll got that?
So my goal this time was to hit the Plaza of Guánica, check out the old abandoned Sugar Mill, retrace the point of entry for the US troops landing here in 1898 and check out a couple more places within the Dry Forest Preserve.
I also made it over to Parguera, up the coast, west of Guánica, but I’ll save that for me next post… Arrg!
Since we were coming from Ponce, we took Hwy 2, to Hwy 116. Hwy 116 runs right past the Plaza.
This time of year, you will see lots of folks along the highway selling bunches of Quenepas. Quenepa trees grow all over PR. These shots were taken in Salinas last month. I have a Quenepa sprout I started from seed last Fall. The fruit are about the size of big grapes. The first place we stopped wanted $5 bucks for a bunch.. ridiculous. We went on to another vendor and scored some for $3. Honestly, I would have paid $3 for half as many. They are delicious, but take time to eat so it’s slow going. The fruit has a thin, but somewhat stiff outer skin you break with your fingernail or teeth. I use my teeth. Then you pop this off to expose the edible flesh surrounding a large hard seed. You basically suck the fruit from the seed and spit it out the seed when you’re done. Since it’s slow going, you will never get full doing this, but they are real treat.
Everyone should try them at least once. They are very sweet with a tart, tropical taste. Very refreshing.
I just wish they sold them in smaller bunches.
On to the Plaza of Guánica
The Plaza is pretty typical of those I’ve seen before. It features several old restored buildings as well as a beautiful Mission style Catholic church and restored Mayors office. The church had a stone shrine out front that was very well maintained
In fact, the entire Plaza was very neat and well kept.
One unique feature of the Plaza was twin fountain pools each featuring a flock of stainless steel birds in flight. Very nicely done. You can see one of the pools in the foreground of the huge Pine tree used for shade. Over near the Mayor’s office was a magnificent Rubber tree. I also spotted a small ceramic tile image of Madonna and Child mounted to the side of one of the restored buildings. A somewhat odd image, though not out-of-place. I’m sure it has it’s own story.
As we were heading off, I grabbed a shot of the town’s shuttle bus as it streaked by. It looked brand new.
Since we got there close to Noon, we did not hang around long. The Plaza was pretty empty.
Guánica is one of the oldest places inhabited by Spanish settlers. The site was originally declared Guaynia by Ponce de Leon in 1508, but in 1511, the local indians revolted and destroyed the town.
Guess they didn’t like being made into slaves by the Spanish.
It even served briefly as the Capital of San Juan, the original name of the island before it was changed to Puerto Rico. The capital of the island was eventually moved twice more, to Caparra, then to Old San Juan. Some years later, people returned to the old townsite of Guaynia to reestablish the port. It is a choice location. Guánica did not receive city status of it’s own until 1914. The population of Guánica sets at 22,824 as of 2008. The town itself is not a big crowd draw, but the area features many interesting opportunities. I did not check out the local museum.. maybe next time.
The Spanish American War of 1898
Guánica, because of it’s perfectly sheltered harbor became the entry point for US troops invading Puerto Rico. Instead of attacking San Juan head on, the Americans chose the South side of the island and marched overland to Ponce, then on to Coamo. They had made their way past Coamo when the Armistice was signed in France, surrendering Puerto Rico to the US.
Only months earlier, Spain had granted Puerto Rico autonomy to manage it’s own affairs.
To this day, many Puerto Ricans do not believe the US has a legitimate right to Puerto Rico. This IS the condensed version of what happened and I refuse to be drawn into a discussion regarding Puerto Rico’s political status. It’s a real hot potato!
Down by the harbor is a large boulder carved by the 3rd Bat 1st US Engineers on September 1898 to commemorate their landing. There used to be a bronze plaque attached to it by the Nat. Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, commemorating the event. BUT it was knocked off and stolen sometime ago. You can still see where the plaque used to sit.
The old photo of it was taken in 1986, before it was removed. Thanx Nancy for the shot.
Next to the ‘big rock’ is a dedicated concrete public viewing area along the shoreline.
Though its starting to show it’s age, it is well maintained and several families were making a day of it with folding chairs, coolers and BBQ grilles. A nice clean place to kick back.
The Old Abandoned Sugar Mill of Guánica
From the harbor we headed over to Hwy 3115, then on to Hwy 325. This took us past the Old Sugar Mill. Part of it is formally dedicated and fenced off from the public, but the main grounds are easy to access. This was a preliminary pass to determine if it warranted a more intense study so I was only there for about 30 minutes. There was some interesting things to shoot, but it is in a much more decayed state than Aguirre Central. I did stumble upon a few horses, they were as curious about me as I was about them. Not being a horse person, I kept my distance. As can be seen in the shots, the buildings are very large and basically empty.
It is easy to find… simply look for the two large chimneys, dominating the view.
After my quick run through of the old sugar mill, we headed on down Hwy 325 to Punta Jorobado, an unmaintained public beach.
Unfortunately, the rain we got from Tropical Storm Emily, left the dirt road full of swimming hole size puddles.
I drove the SUV through most of them until I hit one that covered the entire road.
Had I been in a Jeep CJ, I would have gone on through, but I could not risk our main ride.
So we never made it to Punta Jorobado. I could see it off in the distance.
Because of the heavy rains, everything was very lush. Not like the first time I visited Guánica.
We headed over to Parguera via Hwy 325 and Hwy 324. I’ll cover that part of the trip in more detail next time. We took Hwy 3o4 back to Hwy 116. BTW- Hwy 116 is real nice and will take you back to Hwy 2. We made an additional detour back through Guánica, along the coast via Hwy 333.
I did have to make one stop on Hwy 116 to shoot a bizarre concrete home shaped like a big ship. There was even an unfinished lighthouse next to it.
Our first stop on Hwy 333 was to check out the beach at Playa Jaboncillo. It is another unmaintained public area, perfect for spending the day taking it easy and soaking up the sun. It was a small beach, but the sand was very fine and much lighter in color than the public beach in Ponce. To Ponce’s credit, there are public facilities where there were none here.
You need to bring everything with you if you come to Playa Jaboncillo.
Again, there were several sets of locals camped out. One guy had tossed open all the doors on his truck and was blasting out some great Latin music.
From there, we headed on out Hwy 333 a little farther to San Jacinto.
Why you ask?
Because this is where you can catch a boat over to Gilligan’s Island. No, I mean it! They renamed Cayo Aurora (Aurora Key), Gilligan’s Island. It’s easy to find on Google Maps. The turnoff from Hwy 333 is just after you pass the mammoth Copamarina Beach Resort. A huge facility catering to the rich and famous. The restaurant at San Jacinto has a dock and shuttles folks back and forth from Gilligan’s Island on a regular basis. We will be coming back here, for sure.
As a kid in Alaska, I probably saw every episode of that stupid silly sitcom (circa 1964, I was 11 and loved it). Fond memories, for sure.
We did not stay long… the sun was starting to set.
From here, we made a beeline home. Another great day in Puerto Rico!
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