San Patricio Plaza

San Patricio Plaza

Guaynabo, located in the northern part of Puerto Rico, comprises 70.2 square kilometers (27.1 mi.²). It is known as “el primer poblado de Puerto Rico,” “la ciudad de los conquistadores,” “la capital del deporte,” “las ruinas de Caparra,” and “el pueblo del Carnaval Mabó” (Puerto Rico’s first settlement, city of the conquistadors, sports capital, ruins of Caparra, Mabó carnival town). According to the 2000 census, there were 100,053 guaynabeños living in Guaynabo. Its territory is divided into nine wards: Camarones, Frailes, Guaraguao, Hato Nuevo, Mamey, Pueblo Viejo, Río, Santa Rosa, and Sonadora. The town’s patron saint is Saint Peter the Martyr of Verona.

This municipality’s economy is primarily industrial and commercial. Some of its factories process dairy products and foods from wheat and other grains, while others manufacture textiles and metal, paper, and chemical products. The service industry and construction are other important sectors within the economy of Guaynabo.


This municipality on the northern coast of the island is bounded by the San Juan bay and the town of Cataño to the north, Aguas Buenas to the south, Bayamón to the west, and San Juan to the east. Its territory lies within Puerto Rico’s northern coastal plain. There are several hills in the southern part of the municipality, including Cerro Marquesa at 510 meters (1,673 feet) above sea level. A smaller but noteworthy hill named Caneja, in the northern barrio of Pueblo Viejo, rises to 95 meters (311 feet) in height. Within this hill is a cave which is known for its five entrances and its large, well lit interior. This town is also part of Puerto Rico’s Northern Karst zone.

Guaynabo’s waterways include the Bayamón River and the smaller streams that feed into it, such as Sonadora, Damiana, El Marqués, and Santa Catalina. The Bayamón River’s largest tributary is the Guaynabo River, which also runs through the municipality. From its point of origin in the Mamey ward, the Guaynabo River’s course covers 16 kilometers (10 miles) before joining the Bayamón River. The Guaynabo, in turn, is fed by Limones, Camarones, and Los Frailes creeks. The town’s seacoast, on the other hand, runs for only a very short distance along the San Juan bay. As of the 1980s, there were some 15 hectares (about 37 acres) of red mangrove forest in this region.

Caparra ruins

Caparra ruins

According to some sources, the name “Guaynabo” originated when three Taíno words were combined: Guay, meaning “behold”; na, “place”; and abo, which can mean “fresh water,” “river,” or “life.” Joining these three root words gives us the phrase, “Behold, a place with fresh water, or life.” There is more than one version regarding the cacique or caciques who ruled in the area. Some historians believe that Cacique Guamaní governed this region at the time when the island was first colonized, while according to others, it was Cacique Mabó who established his yucayeque [village] in this territory and named it Guaynabo.

In 1509, Juan Ponce de León founded Caparra, the first Spanish settlement in Puerto Rico, on land that belongs to modern-day Guaynabo. Between 1519 and 1521, the residents of Caparra requested that the settlement be moved to the islet on the northern side of the San Juan bay. By royal edict, Caparra was thus “dismantled” and abandoned. All that remained on the site were Juan Ponce de León’s house and the fortification that was variously used as a military stronghold, the seat of the new government, and a home to the Catholic Church.

It was not until 1769 that Guaynabo was founded as a town. According to a document dated 1853, the municipality measured “four and a half leagues from north to south, and one and a half leagues to the west.” This territory was divided into the following barrios: Pueblo, Tortugo, Frailes, Pueblo Viejo, Santa Rosa, Camarones, Guaraguao, Mamey, Sonadora, Hato Nuevo, Quebrada Arena, and Río Arriba. In 1870 the local municipal government of Guaynabo was dissolved, and the town’s barrios were assigned to two other municipalities: Río Piedras and Bayamón. It is said that this occurred because of “Guaynabo’s alleged inability to defray local expenses using authorized contributions [taxes].” Guaynabo regained its status as a municipality in 1912, by means of Law no. 71, with the following barrios: Hato Nuevo, Mamey, Frailes, Poblado, Camarones, Pueblo Viejo, Santa Rosa, Guaraguao, Sonora, and Río.



Guaynabo’s flag consists of two equal parts, divided by an indented and embattled vertical line. The background of the left-hand section is green. In the center of that section is a cross of four fleurs-de-lys, joined at the center point with gyronny (meaning that the base of each fleur-de-lys is triangular or spear-shaped). This cross figure also appears on the coat of arms. The right-hand side of the flag is plain white; the indentation of the vertical division consists of six green and five white merlons, or “teeth.”

Coat of Arms

The shield of Guaynabo’s coat of arms has a green background. Centered in the top half of the shield is a cross in the shape of four fleurs-de-lys, divided by four silver and black lines (one vertical, one horizontal, and two diagonal). This cross is the emblem of the Dominican Order of the Friars Preachers, to which Saint Peter the Martyr of Verona, Guaynabo’s patron saint, belonged. The bottom half of the shield shows a house, fortified with an embattled wall. This fortified house represents the settlement of Caparra, the original capital of the island. It was the first home of the conquistador Juan Ponce de León and his family, and was the seat of the municipal government as well as a military fortress. Its ruins have been preserved as one of Guaynabo’s historical treasures. On the coat of arms, a small shield can be seen over the door, showing a lion standing on its hind legs. This shield is the blazon of the Ponce de León family.

Old city hall

Old city hall

1782 Cayetano de la Sarna
1800 Pedro Dávila
1812 Dionisio Cátala
1814 Pedro Dávila
1816 ángel Umpierre
1818 Juan José González
1819 Juan Díez de Barrio
1820 Dionisio Cátala
1821 Joaquín Goyena
1822 José María Prosis
1823 Simón Xinorio
1825 José R. Ramírez
1826 Joaquín Goyena
1827 Antonio Guzmán
1828 Genaro Oller
1831 Andrés Degal
1836 Agustín Rosario
1838 ángel Umpierre
1840 Francisco Chiques
1842 Genaro Oller
1844 José Martínez Díez
1848 Tomás Cátala
1849 Andrés Vega
1852 Justo García y Luis Antonio Vega
Año Alcalde
1854 Andrés Vega
1855 Frutos García
1856 José Tomás Segarra
1857 Manuel Manzano
1858 Juan Florit
1859 José Francisco Chiques y Segundo de Echeverte Mejía
1860 – 1862 José de Murgas
1862 Juan J. Caro
1869 Benito Gómez
1870 José Amigo
1872 Manuel Mellado
1873 José Carazo
1874 José Otero y José Ramón Cifre
1914 José R. Carazo
1924 Zenón Díaz
1932 Víctor J. Dávila
1936 Dolores Valdivieso Llompart
1944 Augusto Rivera
1948 Jorge Gavillán Fuentes
1956 Juan Román
1964 José Rosario Reyes
1968 Santos Rivera Pérez
1978 Alejandro Cruz
1993 – Currently Héctor O’Neill García

Sports Museum

Sports Museum

The Honorable Héctor O’Neill García

Places of Interest

• Bust of Román Baldorioty de Castro
• Guaynabo Fine Arts Center
• Caribe recreational center
• Mets Pavilion
• Ruins of Caparra
• Sports Museum
• City Hall
• Old telegraph facilities
• Vórtice II sculpture in the Cultural Plaza

Illustrious Citizens

Rafael Martínez Nadal – Born in Mayagüez, but died in Guaynabo. Attorney, journalist, editor, writer, speaker, businessman, and founder of various publications. Member (1921 – 1941) and president (1933 – 1941) of the Senate of Puerto Rico. Founder of the Partido Republicano Puro (Pure Republican Party) and of the newspaper El Globo. He was also president of the Partido Unión Republicana (Union Republican Party).

Román Baldorioty de Castro – Renown educator, author, reformer, and patriot. Distinguished himself as one of Puerto Rico’s foremost abolitionists and spokesman for the island’s right to self-determination. He was selected to represent Puerto Rico at the 1867 Universal Fair, which was organized in Paris, France. In 1870, he was elected as a deputy in the Spanish parliament where he promoted abolition of slavery. He also founded the Partido Autonomista in 1887.

Dolores Valdivieso Llompart –first woman mayor of Guaynabo.


• Three Kings Festival – January
• Mabó Carnival – February
• Mothers’ Day celebration – May
• Patron Saint Festival honoring Saint Peter the Martyr of Verona – May
• National Salsa Day – June
• Fine Arts camp and recreation and sports camp – June
• Bomba and Plena (folkloric music and dance) Festival – October
• Official lighting of Christmas Lights – November

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: May 26, 2009.

Images Gallery of Guaynabo

Related Entries

This post is also available in: Español


The Puerto Rico Endowment for the Humanities welcomes the constructive comments that the readers of the Encyclopedia of Puerto Rico want to make us. Of course, these comments are entirely the responsibility of their respective authors.