Municipalities / Vega Alta
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General information

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Cerro Gordo public beach
Vega Alta, founded in 1775, is known as the "Squatters Towntown, founding: A group of vecinos that wanted to found a town had to grant a power of attorney to one or more other vecinos to represent them before the governor and viceroy. This person could authorize the founding of the town and the establishment of a parish. The grantors of the power of attorney had to be a majority in the given territory and more than ten in number. Once the case had been made, the governor appointed a capitán poblador or settlement official to represent the vecinos and one or more delegates, who usually lived in nearby cabildos vecinos to receive the necessary documentation. Proof was required that the settlement was so far from a church that it was very difficult for the settlers to partake of sacraments and municipal services. In general, proof was provided of the absence or bad condition of roads and bridges. If the petition was approved, it was required that the vecinos mark off the new municipality and build public works such as a church, a parish house, a government house (Casa del Rey), a slaughterhouse, and a cemetery, and to set aside land for the town square or plaza and the commons (ejidos). The vecinos were expected to cover the cost of building these works by levying special assessments. Usually one of the land owners donated some land for the founding. Once the requirements had been met, the governor authorized the founding of the town and the parish, and he appointed a Lieutenant at War who usually was the same capitán poblador." and its residents are called the "Pottery Makers." According to popular history, the "Squatters Town" nickname comes from the habit of sugar cane workers to resting in a squatting position while waiting for the train that carried the cane, because the station did not have any seats.

Vega Alta covers an area of 72.8 square kilometers (28 square miles). The population is 37,910 (2000 Census). Vega Alta is divided into eight sectors: Bajura, Candelaria, Cienegueta, Espinosa, Maricao, Mavilla, Sabana and Vega Alta Pueblo. The patron saint festival is held around December 8 in honor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.


Vega Alta is located on the north coast of Puerto Rico. It is bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by Morovis and Corozal, on the east by Dorado and Toa Alta and on the west by Vega Baja.

The municipality is part of the northern coastal plain and the island’s karst zone, which is why it has many limestone haystack hills called mogotes, caves, and sinkholes. The highest elevations are located in the Cienegueta sector, in the south of the municipality, which is part of the northern hills region, where maximum elevations reach 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level. In the Sabana sector are the Alto Breña and Cerro Gordo hills.

Among the geographic features of the coast are the Cerro Gordo point and the key that shares the same name. Vega Alta also has a system of caves called Santa Rosa-Monserrate, which extends underneath the surface of the communities of those names. Also, in the Bajura sector are two other subterranean caverns: Chiquita cave and Cafetal cave.

The municipality has a natural area called the Vega Alta forest, which extends to the border with Vega Baja. It is divided into three segments that cover a total of about 447 hectares. The forest received average annual rainfall of 1,695 millimeters (66.7 inches). Its elevation ranges from 5 to 50 meters (15 to 160 feet) above sea level.

The forest’s vegetation is typical of the karst zone. There are various species of palms and trumpet trees. The surface includes mogotes surrounded by depressions, as well as deep sinkholes. Vega Alta is irrigated by the Cibuco River and its tributaries, the Mavilla and Unibón Rivers.

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Version: 09052003 Rev. 1
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