Hacienda Santa Rita in Guánica is a representative example of a 19th century sugar plantation. More than 1,800 cuerdas (1,750 acres) in size, it was one of the most prosperous sugar operations in the southern part of the island.
Hacienda Santa Rita was built in 1800 by Mariano Quiñones. It remained in the family until 1893, when Juan Domingo Mariani acquired it and changed its name to Hacienda Desideria. During the Spanish-American War in 1898, the plantation served as the headquarters for Spanish forces commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Puig. Following a battle on the grounds of the plantation between the two armies, it was occupied by the U.S. troops of General Nelson A. Miles.
In 1901, ownership of the plantation passed to the Guánica Central sugar mill. In 1953, the owners gave the land temporarily to the Dominican Order of Our Lady of Fatima. The religious order officially acquired the property in 1962. Currently they continue to administer the estate.
The original house was spacious and rectangular in shape with masonry walls. It was one level with numerous latticework doors on its four sides. The exterior was elaborately decorated with stucco adornments around each door and a cornice that crowned the structure. In 1850, a second level was added with a roof of four gables that extended to cover a balcony around the building, which showed French influences that were common throughout the region for much of the 19th century. The banisters and columns of the balcony were made of forged iron and were the dominant visual element of the structure. The balcony is supported, in part, by its elegant iron work.
The structure that housed the plantation’s slaves is known as the “lot south of the batey” and is built of masonry. After the emancipation of the slaves, it housed sugar cane workers. Later, the Guánica Central mill used it as a garage.
In view of the deterioration of the estate, the Comité Pro-Restauración de la Hacienda Santa Rita (a committee for the restoration of the Hacienda) undertook a project to rehabilitate and restore its structures. In 1993, the project was completed, returning the plantation to its past appearance while taking into consideration the needs and uses of today.
Adapted by the PROE Editorial Group
Original source: Catalog of Properties, National Register of Historic Places, State Office of Historic Conservation, Office of the Governor, 1995.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014.
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