Aguada, a municipality on Puerto Rico’s west coast that was founded in 1692, was known at the time of the Spanish conquest as a water supply point for ships that traveled between America and Europe; that is where its name comes from: “aguada” means watered down. However, this town is also known as ‘El Pueblo Playero’ (Beach Town), ‘La Ciudad del Vaticano’, ‘Villa Sotomayor’, ‘Por Aguada fue’ meaning that was Aguada the first place where Christopher Columbus landing, and ‘Villa de San Francisco de Asís’, this last name in reference to the town’s patron saint.
This municipality covers approximately 30.21 square miles or 78 square kilometers. Its population, according to the census of 2000, is 42,042 inhabitants. Aguada is divided into twenty areas: Asomante, Atalaya, Carrizal, Cerro Gordo, Cruces, Espinar, Guanábano, Guaniquilla, Guayabo, Jagüey, Lagunas, Mal Paso, Mamey, Marías, Naranjo, Piedras Blancas, Río Grande, and Aguada ‘Pueblo’.
This municipality’s economy, until some decades ago, was mainly based on growing and processing sugarcane. Besides plantation estates, other economic activities also existed; such as: livestock farming and lumber production. Central Coloso operated as a sugar refinery from 1875 to 2000. Other economic activities in town were cattle farming and lumber production. Today, Aguada’s economy is based on the development of small businesses and a limited number of factories of foreign capital.
Aguada is located on the island’s western region. On the north, it borders the Atlantic ocean and the municipality of Aguadilla; on the south, are the municipalities of Rincón and Añasco; on the east are Aguadilla and Moca, and on the west is Rincón. Geographically, it belongs to the zone known western coastal plains, where the soil is alluvial and very fertile.
Although its relief is almost completely flat, to the south there are some mountains. To the southwest, at the borderline between the areas of Atalaya in Aguada and Rincón, is Atalaya peak, 362 meters or 1,187 feet high, and to the southeast, in the Cerro Gordo area, is the Cerro Gordo, 260 meters or 853 feet high. Aguada also has hills: Casualidad, Cayures, San José, Vadi, and Vieques, which do not measure more than 76 meters or 249 feet high above sea level. These elevations are part of the San Francisco or La Cadena mountain range, which extend across the south of this municipality.
Its hydrographical system is made up by rivers: Culebrinas, Madre Vieja, Grande, and Caño Santi Ponce. Culebrinas, which is 25 miles long, borders Aguada with the municipality of Aguadilla on the north. Grande River borders Aguada with Rincón on the south.
Caño Santi Ponce river begins in Cruces area and Guayabo River begins in the Guayabo area. Guayabo has Culebra and Ingenio rivers as its affluent. While Culebrinas has Cañas River as its affluent. All these rivers belong to the west, or the Mona Passage, where they flow into.
On Aguada’s coast, the peak called ‘Boquerón’ protrudes; it is located in the Carrizal area. In addition, there are deposits of manganese and small amounts of copper in this municipality.
In the past, ships in transit to Europe and the rest of America ‘watered’ in this region, meaning, these ships used the numerous wells located to the east of Guayabo river, in the Guaniquilla region (today, part of Aguada), to get their supply of water. The wells, were known as Caldas, Novoa, Güira, San José and San Francisco or Placeres. The name of the municipality of Aguada came from this activity.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico. Although historians disagree as to the exact location of the disembarkment, the coast of Guaniquilla, territory we now know as Aguada, has been designated as landing sight of the admiral and his crew . At the time, this region was governed by Cacique Aymamón, who had his yucayeque (town) near the Coalibina River.
Years later, between 1508 and 1510, a village was established in that territory under the command of Cristóbal de Sotomayor. It was the second village established on the island and was founded on Juan Ponce de León’s orders.
In February 1511, when the Taíno Indian insurrection began, Villa Sotomayor, as the village was known, was burned down and almost all inhabitants died. Only interpreter Juan González was saved as he was able to escape and go to Caparra to inform Ponce de León of what had happened. Today, we see the ruins of that village in the Cruces area, near Ingenio River.
Five years later, in 1516, the Franciscan Order erected a chapel and founded a monastery advocating San Francisco de Asís in the Espinal area in Aguada. According to Villar Roces, these friars were under the jurisdiction of provincial Friar Alonso del Espinar. A few years later, in 1528, an Indigenous group took over and burned down the monastery, which killed five Franciscans. It is said that this was done by the Caribs, however, we must remember that at the time, all rebellious Indians were called Caribs.
Franciscans returned to Espinal at the end of the 16th century to found the San Francisco de Asís de la Aguada population. In 1639, a new chapel was built there in honor of the Most Pure Conception.
Towards the end of the 17th century, the king of Spain, by royal decree, declared Aguada as ecclesiastical parish. On September 17, 1692, Audiencia de La Española (court) agreed to organize the county of San Francisco de la Aguada; and Aguada was granted the ability to become an independent parish.
In 1737, another royal decree ordered that fleets traveling towards Caracas and South America should pick up, at the Aguada wells, all correspondence that originated in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was destined to the rest of the Spanish colonies. In 1759, an English squad came in through that port and it was heroically turned back by the people of Aguada.
The arrival of Spanish ships to the port of wells in Aguada promoted the celebration of local fairs in which locals sold or exchanged their products in a festive environment. At the time, there were many cases in which crew members and soldiers destined to other colonies deserted when they arrived in that region. Stimulated by the abundance of food and the traditional hospitality provided by locals, they hid in the mountains until the ships they arrived on left the port. It is said that from a single fleet, more than a thousand people could desert. This contributed to the increase in European population in the west of the island. There are testimonies that contraband was common among the settlers of this area.
Aguada used to cover a large territorial area; it included today’s Aguadilla, Moca, San Sebastián del Pepino, and Rincón. In 1752, the county of Pepino was created; twenty years later another territory was segregated to create the county of Santa Rosa del Rincón, and in 1780, San Carlos de la Aguadilla was separated.
On January 14, 1778, Charles III, through royal decree, elevated Aguada, Arecibo, and Coamo to the category of villa. At the time, Aguada included the areas of: Asomante, Atalaya, Carrizal, Cerro Gordo, Cruces, Espinal, Guanábanas, Guayabo, Jagüey, Lagunas, Malpaso, Marías, Mamey, Naranjo, Piedras Blancas, and Río Grande.
In the second half of the 18th century, three chroniclers who visited Puerto Rico left descriptions of Aguada. Fernando Miyares González visited it in 1775 and stated that the town had 180 houses, two infantry companies, one cavalry company, and one station. Friar Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra made a more detailed description during his visit to the island between 1771 and 1778. He says that the town had four rows of houses, with a large town square where “the ruined church is always visible” because its swampy ground does not provide the appropriate foundation for its construction.
Abbad said that 685 families lived in Aguada which added up to 4,117 inhabitants, which owned some mills and grew coffee, rice, and other crops, although most of them lived on contraband. Abbad also mentions that there were two military companies: cavalry and infantry.
Soon before the end of the century, in 1797, French botanist André Pierre Ledrú was in Aguada. He said that the village was settled on a “quite swampy, beautiful valley” that is in a flood zone and that its inhabitants widely participated in contraband. Ledrú informed that at this time the jurisdiction of Aguada had 4,814 inhabitants.
According to Villar Roces, in 1841 Aguada’s Juzgado de Justicia Mayor (high court of justice) was transferred to the town of Aguadilla. It is said that Aguada’s inhabitants did not take the decision well, because they considered Aguadilla to be a village of lesser hierarchy. In 1855, the town of Aguada was hit by an epidemic of cholera morbus.
In 1893, the committee assembled to commemorate the fourth centennial of the discovery of Puerto Rico erected a monument in the shape of a cross —Cruz de Culebrinas— in the Espinar area to show the place where they believed Christopher Columbus’ first disembarkation on the island took place. Back then, the point of reference belonged to the municipality of Aguadilla. In 1937, this monument was rebuilt by the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration (PRRA). Today, the cross is located in the municipality of Aguada. In 1948, the Puerto Rico Planning Board approved the blueprints for the zoning of the town of Aguada, permanently stating that where the Cruz de Culebrinas is located is part of the Espinar area in Aguada.
In the second decade of the 20th century, two great natural phenomena affected the town. In August 1912, a powerful fire destroyed a large part of the village. Among the houses it destroyed, was the old town hall, built of wood, which had all of the archives. On October 11, 1918, strong earthquakes destroyed the church of San Francisco, made of lime and pebbles, most of the houses, and the Cruz de Culebrina. The cross was erected again in 1925 in the Guanaquilla area, financed by the Liga Patriótica de Aguada, “with the purpose of setting the real place where Columbus disembarked and took possession of the island for King Ferdinand and Queen Elizabeth.”
Aguada’s flag was designed by Pedro Vélez Adrovar and has white, yellow, and red colors. White represents the purity of men and the crystal waters of the Culebrinas River and the Pozos Colombinos. The blue triangle on the white background and the dove that is on the triangle symbolize the peace that unites all peoples. Red alludes to the martyrdom of Franciscan friars in Espinal in 1528. The rising cross represents the victory of Christianity in Puerto Rico. Yellow symbolizes the happiness and hostility of the inhabitants; the star represents the hope of reaching greater development and progress.
Coat of arms
The Coat of Arms is divided into two parts. On the top half is a cross with the arms of Jesus and San Francisco de Asís intertwined, alluding to the Franciscan friars, peace and fraternity between human beings and the Savior. The sun under the cross represents the light that illuminates the world. In the bottom half, there are five ships related to Christopher Columbus’ second voyage. The colors on the coat of arms are red which represents fraternal love; gold which symbolizes the Spanish royalty; green is for fertile land and hope; white is for the purity of Jesus.
1692 Juan López de Segura
1810 José A. Ruiz
1826 J. Evangelista González
1826 Francisco López
1827 Ramón Méndez
1827 Agustín Domenech
1827 Francisco Sosa
1831 Antonio Cordero
1832 Luis Maisonave
1832 José S. Santaliz
1838 Melitón Balanzatqui
1843 Domingo Santoni
1843 Juan López
1849 Pablo Paz Castillo
1852 Pedro María García
1852 Jaime Mata
1853 Carlos Garabain
1858 Andrés Dapena
1864 Domingo Santoni
1866-1867 Juan Pablo Rodríguez
1868 Fernando Arce
1869 Bernardo Caamaño
1871 Francisco A. Arrillaga
1871 Emilio Vady
1872 Joaquín Solá Puig
1872 Rodulfo Hernández
1873 Emilio Vadi
1874 Joaquín Solá Puig
1873-1874 Emilio Vady
1883-1884 Vicente Sosa
1883-1884 Emilio Vadi
1884-1885 Ramón González Jiménez
1884-1885 Ramón Sierra
1886 J. Casanovas
1887 Agustín Battley Amell
1887 Vicente Suro
1889 Juan Francisco Barazoaín
1890 José Moret
1893 Sandalio Valencia
1893 José Ramón Badillo
1895 Sandalio Valencia
1895 Juan Francisco Barazoaín
1896 Domingo Acevedo
1896-1898 José Ramón Badillo
1898-1899 Antonio Sánchez Ruiz
1900 Manuel M. González
1901 Emiliano Ruiz
1902-1904 Antonio Sánchez Ruiz
1904-1912 Cornelio Ruiz González
1912-1916 Pedro F. Acevedo
1916-1920 Teodoro Badillo Morales
1920-1928 Cornelio Ruiz González
1928-1932 Dr. Carlos González
1932-1936 Efigenio Charneco
1936-1940 Fernando Rivera
1940-1944 Andrés Carrero
1944-1948 Juan Villarrubia Santiago
1948-1960 Manuel Egipciaco
1960-1964 Juan Figueroa González
1964-1968 Juan Figueroa González
1968-1972 Julio César Román
1972-1976 Mabel Vélez de Acevedo
1976-2000 Julio César Román
2000-2004 Miguel Angel Ruiz Hernández
2004-2012 Luis Alberto “Berty” Echevarría
2012 – Currently Jessie Cortés Ramos
Jessie Cortés Ramos
Places of Interest
• Central Coloso
• Ermita Espinar
• Iglesia San Francisco de Asís
• La Cruz de Culebrinas
• Museo de Aguada
• Pico de Piedra Beach
Juan Bautista Arrillaga Roqué – Journalist, essayist, playwright, abolitionist, and pharmacist. Autonomist who told the Spanish Government of the repressive politics on the island at the end of the 1880’s. Director of El Aguila, daily newspaper in Puerto Rico. He published his book Memorias de Antaño, the comedy Tierra enferma, and the drama Los bribones.
Zoilo Cajigas Sotomayor – Artist dedicated to popular imagery or carving saints. An elementary school on the urban area of the municipality (Montemar) has his name.
Mabel Vélez Acevedo – First woman mayor of Aguada. She served from 1972 to 1976.
• Artisan festival– October
• Festival of the Discovery – November
• Patron Saint Festival – October
Note: These articles have been edited and checked by academics and specialists in History. Discrepancies may exist among historians regarding some data.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: June 03, 2015.
Images Gallery of Aguada
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