The municipality of Gurabo is located in the east-central part of Puerto Rico. Its name is of Taino origin, but it is also known as the “town of the staircases,” because of the extensive and colorful stairways located in the town. The nickname for residents is “gurabeños.”
The area of Gurabo is 28 square miles. According to the 2000 U.S. census, the population is 36,743. The municipality consists of the sectors of Celada, Gurabo Pueblo, Hato Nuevo, Jagua, Jagual, Mamey, Masa, Navarro, Quebrada Infierno and Rincón.
This town has been one of the fastest-growing municipalities in recent times. This is because Gurabo has become a suburb of the San Juan metropolitan area, as the majority of its residents work in the capital.
By the 1980s, the town had various industries, new housing developments and higher education institutions such as the University of Turabo and the Criminal Justice University of the Puerto Rico Police Department. The principal economic activity is manufacturing, with metal, paper, plastic, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, machinery and electronic equipment being the main products.
Farming and livestock are also part of the municipality’s economy. Fruit and tobacco are the main crops. Some sugar cane, a very important product in the town’s economic history, is still grown.
Gurabo is located in the east-central part of the island and covers 18,418 cuerdas of land. It is bordered by Trujillo Alto on the north, San Lorenzo on the south, Carolina and Juncos on the east and Caguas on the west.
The municipality is part of three distinct geographic regions. The southern portion is part of the eastern mountainous zone. The northern part is within the humid foothills of the north, and central area is part of the Caguas Valley. This is the largest of the interior valleys on the island. It formed as a result of erosion by the Gurabo River, the Grande de Loíza River and the Valenciano River. The soil in the valley is very fertile.
Of the 32,483 cuerdas that make up the valley, 5,500 are within the municipality of Gurabo. The elevation of the valley is approximately 164 to 230 feet (49.987 and 70.104 meters, respectively) above sea level and makes up 30 percent of the area of the municipality. Gurabo’s climate is semitropical and precipitation is abundant throughout the year.
As mentioned above, the municipality is part of the Caguas Valley region. North of the valley, in the humid foothills region, the topography reaches an elevation of 1,000 to 1,300 feet (304.8 and 396.24 meters, respectively). The eastern mountainous region includes moderately steep hills and is lower than the area to the north.
To the north is the Hato Nuevo ridge. The highest point in Gurabo is La Silla peak, in the Masa sector, at 367 meters (1,204 feet) above sea level. To the southeast, in the Mamey sector, there are lower peaks that are part of the Cayey range.
The Grande de Loíza River is the border between the municipality and Caguas, to the west of Gurabo. Its tributary is the Gurabo River, which crosses the municipality from east to west. Some of the streams in the municipality, and tributaries of the Loíza, are the Grande, Infierno and Maracuta streams.
The history of Gurabo goes back to the 17th century, when a group of settlers in the valley between the Turabo and Grande de Loíza Rivers migrated across the river to the hill known as Piñal. There they built the Dulce Nombre de Jesús chapel, which became the parish for the area. However, the chapel was too exposed to damage from hurricanes, and after being destroyed various times, it was finally abandoned in 1770.
The original settlers then moved to the other bank of the river to a small hamlet called Barrero. There they established a parish by the same name and, in 1775, this settlement became the town of Caguas. Another group of residents remained at Piñal, which became Gurabo, a sector of Caguas.
The Gurabo sector’s distance from the parish and the danger of crossing the river to get to Caguas led the 168 residents in 1812 to request that their sector be separated from Caguas. They also asked that the border between the towns be the river itself and not the lands of Piñal, as the Caguas residents wanted.
Luis del Carmen de Echevarría was in charge of the efforts to found the new town. As was customary, the residents committed to erecting a church, a government house, a parish house, a butcher shop, and to enclose a space for a cemetery and reserve land for a plaza and other projects.
In 1814, Gurabo achieved its goal of becoming a municipality, under authorization from GovernorSalvador Meléndez Bruna, who established the river as the border. In 1822, the town erected its parish church in honor of San José.
The municipal territory was organized into the sectors of Jagua, Peñón, Gurabo Pueblo, Mamey, Jagual, Piñal and Rincón. Twenty years later, the sectors of Jagual, Peñón and Piñal (today Navarro) had disappeared and the sectors of Hato Nuevo, Masas and Quebrada Infierno had been created.
Gurabo was badly affected by the cholera epidemic that affected the island in 1865. Its territory was also frequently hit by hurricanes, which destroyed homes and devastated its agricultural and livestock holdings.
In 1902, the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly approved a law that eliminated the municipality of Gurabo. Its area was annexed to Caguas. Three years later, a new law by the Legislative Assembly revoked the previous law and restored sovereignty to the municipality of Gurabo with the same sectors it had in 1902. The municipality was reorganized and once again was an independent municipality with the same borders it had before being annexed to Caguas.
In 1948, the Puerto Rico Planning Board extended the urban zone of the town to create the Gurabo municipal map and its sectors. The Masas sector became Masa, and the Jagual, an area with many jagua trees, was renamed Jaguar.
In 1974, approximately 1,158 tons of sugar were produced in Gurabo. The same year, there were thirteen large cattle ranches and the municipality also had six tobacco farms. In 1998, there were about ten important industries that made handbags, bras, clothing, antennas, pharmaceutical products, electrical appliances and other products.
Today, some of the institutions that contribute to the town’s economy are the Gurabo Communal Credit Union, founded in 1961; the University of Turabo, of the Ana G. Méndez Educational System; and the Police Sciences Academy.
The flag has eleven bands: six green and five yellow, alternating. The upper border of the yellow bands is indented in the form of stairs. Each step measures two parts high for three parts wide. The flag displays the two main colors of the municipal coat of arms, green and gold. The latter color represents the metal and the design symbolizes the five characteristic staircases of the urban area of the municipality.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms has a stretched, gold cross. The cross alludes to the patron saint of Gurabo, San José. It was taken from the seal that the mayor of the municipality used in the middle of the 20th century. Below the cross are two small seals: the one on the left contains an azure fleur de lys and the one on the right depicts a vase with three sugar cane stalks rising out of it.
The small seal on the right represents the name of the founder of Gurabo, Luis del Carmen Echevarría, and the one on the left represents his birthplace of Zaira, in Extremadura, Spain. The name Luis has been related in history and in heraldry, as well as by phonetics, to the fleur de lys. This flower appears on the royal seal of France. Also, the coat of arms of the village of Zafra has a blue vase with three sugar cane stalks. The coat of arms thus includes the symbols of the municipality, the insignia of its patron saint, and the name of the home town of its founder.
The wall crowning the seal is symbolic of coats of arms of cities, villages and towns. Following the rules established for creating the municipal seals of Puerto Rico, the seal for Gurabo, which was a town, had three towers.
1812 – Luis del Carmen Echevarría
1816 – José Francisco Dávila
1818 – Antonio Monserrate Maldonado
1820 – Pedro Jiménez
1821 – Benedicto Dávila y José Francisco Dávila
1822 – Juan Pedro Díaz
1823 – Luis del Carmen Echevarría
1824 – Francisco Díaz
1826 – Luis del Carmen Echevarría
1827 – Inocencio Oballe y Carlos Fagundo
1829 – José Francisco Díaz
1832 – Inocencio Oballe
1833 – Carlos Fagundo
1839 – Luis del Carmen Echevarría
1849 – José M. Guerra
1850 – José M. Guerra
1853 – ? Llorens
1855 – Eduardo Escalona
1859-1864 – José Muñoz
1866 – José M. Lago
1868 – Francisco Pacheco
1870 – Joaquín Dapena, Manuel Boscana
1871 – Manuel Boscana
1872 – Patricio Pérez, José María Guerra
1873 – Joaquín M. González
1874 – Isidoro Dávila
1876 – J. Lorenzo Casta
1878 – J. Lorenzo Casta y Jaime Sala
1879 – Matías González
1880 – ? Boyer
1885 – José Esteban García
1887 – José A. Giménez Sicardó, J. Esteban García
1891 – Juan Suro, Blas Maldonado y José Giménez Sicardó
1892 – José Jiménez
1893 – José Vila Samper y Pedro J. Díaz
1895 – Luis Sala
1896 – Matías González
1897 – Cándido Fabián1898 – Gregorio Rivera, Celestino Morales
1899 – Celestino Morales
1925 – Porfirio Díaz
1931 – Francisco Rodríguez Rovira
1948 – Arturo Carrión León
1951 – Jaime Serrano Dávila
1972 – Ulises Díaz Díaz
1980 – Ramón García
1992 – Víctor Rivera Acevedo
1996 – José A. Rivera
2004 – currently Víctor Manuel Ortiz Díaz
Víctor M. Ortiz Díaz
Places of Interest
• Exhibition Center
• El Cerro
• Former City Hall and Clock
• San José Parish
• Luis Muñoz Marín Plaza
• Mirador Estate
• Loíza Lagoon
• University of Turabo Museum
• Cofresí Park
Luis del Carmen Echevarría – Mayor in 1812, 1823, 1826, 1833. Founded the town of Gurabo in 1815.
José Emilio González – Poet, essayist, journalist and college professor. Honored by the Institute of Puerto Rico Culture and the Puerto Rican Athenaeum.
Nilda González Monclova – Script writer, actress and professor at the University of Puerto Rico.
Angel Celestino Morales – Writer. He wrote in multiple genres.
Angel Viera Martínez – Lawyer and politician. Founding member of the New Progressive Party, representative to the Assembly (1969-1985); vice president of the New Progressive Party (1983). Along with Dr. Hernán Padilla, founded the Puerto Rican Renovation Party.
Harry Colón Díaz – Defender of the environment and nature. Recognized for his community work in Santa Rita and Masas in Gurabo.
• Home Garden Festival (May)
• Youth Festival (May)
• Mapeyé Festival (October)
• San José Patron Saint Festival (March)
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: October 22, 2009.
Images Gallery of Gurabo
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