Remains of Central Roig Sugar Mill in Yabucoa
This was the second day of our trip to Yabucoa and the last of 3 posts. I only had about an hour and a half to check out this site so I’ll have to come back for more shots. There are some fine-art opportunities here.
Operations formally ceased in early 2000. This came only after the government of Puerto Rico stepped in to try and save the sugar industry, but it was not to be. After losing $1.2 Billion over 26 years, they finally gave up.
Puerto Rico could no longer compete with the cheap labor in Cuba, the Dominican Republic or Latin America. US minimum wages being what they were.
That’s something you will not hear when you take Bacardi’s guided tour.
The Roig plant got its start in 1927 when Antonio Roig bought out the La Rosario Hacienda jointly owned by the Central Mercedita sugar mill and the firm of Gómez, Méndez y Cia. Central Roig operated until 1998 when the Puerto Rico Sugar Corp. assumed ownership. We know how that ended.
Today, almost 12 years later, it is the most ‘intact’ sugar mill I’ve explored. It is not like the rusted hulks you find at Central Aguirre or the derelict sugar mill in Guanica.
Much of it looks like they went to lunch one day and never came back.
Yes, there has been some small scale metal reclamation going on. I did not see any copper in the place. But the big heavy stuff is still there. There were signs of partying too, but that’s to be expected.
The central grounds featured a couple of giant cranes. They stood like sentinels, looking over everything below. These were used to lift and dump the raw cane from trucks, into the grinding mill.
You could still see the huge hopper on the outside, that fed into the grinders located in the main building. All very impressive.
This part of the mill resembled what I saw at Central Aguirre.
As mentioned earlier, I only had about an hour to check out the mill so I stayed on the ground, except where I went up to check out the giant gears and cane crushing hardware.
Later, I stumbled onto a small office that had been used by a draftsman with large flat-files full of old blue-line reproductions and xeroxed records. I took the time to shoot 3 pieces which can be seen by clicking on their thumbnails. Beetles and termites were having their way with them. Much like the offices in Central Aguirre.
While doing the background information search on Central Roig, I came across this aerial image hosted on Flikr, taken by the US military sometime before the mill switched over to using gasoline powered trucks. Quite the facility, back when. You can still see the narrow gauge railroad cane trucks parked off the side and the miniature trestle bridge used by the train. There are no cranes in this shot. It dates to 1950, according to Dave on Flikr. Dave has more old historical shots and a book in the works. The link on the photo will take you to the guy that scored the image and a larger version of it. His story on how he came by the aerial shot is quite interesting. Since he didn’t know.. it’s called ‘Pitorro’
The ‘Dispensario’ was another great find. It was connected to what appeared to be the manager’s office and off that was a small room open to the weather with time card racks mounted to the wall. The racks had enough slots to accommodate 900 employees. That lead up to what looked like the formal entrance onto the factory floor.
There is no way this place could ever be brought back to life.
It would cost more to refit and bring up to Fed safety regs than to build a new one from scratch. Plus I’m sure there have been some improvements to the process since this facility was built in the early 20th century.
So it sits rusting away until the government of PR decides what to do with it. Relegated to history.
A prime subject for my lens.
Another Blog worth checking out, ‘About My Beaches’, features more good shots of the defunct Central Roig sugar mill.
I would love to have one of those 14 foot cast-iron gears standing in the front yard. I know just where to put it. Arrg!
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