During the 20th century, Hacienda Buena Vista was one of the most important coffee estates in the southern region of the island. It is located in the Magueyes area of Ponce and covers 82 cuerdas (87 acres). Currently, it is one of the best examples of a Puerto Rican coffee estate that still exists.
Hacienda Buena Vista was founded in 1833 by a Venezuelan immigrant of Spanish origin named Salvador Vives. These lands, located in a mountainous area between Adjuntas and Ponce along the course of the Canas River, was initially used as a fruit orchard. In 1837, the family acquired a corn mill and a machine for removing pulp from coffee. Beginning in 1847, the estate went through a series of changes, including the construction of a system of canals that used the water from the river, along with a very sophisticated hydraulic system with a turbine that was the only one of its kind in the world. Thanks to this hydraulic system, the estate was the most successful in the region at processing corn flour and coffee. Also built during this era were a great house, a barracks for slaves, a warehouse and the first mill.
The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico acquired Hacienda Buena Vista in 1984 and began a meticulous process of restoring the original machinery and housing. Detailed research was done on the documents preserved by the Vives family and donated to the trust. Construction techniques of the 19th century were used in the restoration. The only structure that was completely rebuilt was the coffee mill, which had been destroyed by hurricane San Felipe in 1928.
Hacienda Buena Vista is on the National Register of Historic Places, part of the National Parks Service of the U.S. Department of Interior, and its machinery is included in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) historical archives. The ASME has designated the estate’s hydraulic turbine as a historical monument, as it is the only existing example of the reaction turbine invented in the 18th century.
The estate is located in a subtropical rain forest rich in wildlife. Because of its origin as a fruit orchard and its transformation for commercial coffee cultivation, a varied agricultural-forested system has developed which includes, in addition to coffee, cacao trees, annatto, oranges and plantains. The practice of cultivating coffee in the shade, along with other trees, helps maintain the ecological balance of the forest and sustains the wildlife of the area.
Because of its ecological value, the estate has a program for monitoring its biodiversity, which is part of the trust’s research program at Hacienda Buena Vista. A research parcel was established where professors and students monitor the development of the forest after commercial agriculture has been abandoned. Studies have also been done about the coffee industry in Puerto Rico and the influence of slavery on the socio-economic development of the island, among others.
Hacienda Buena Vista receives about 40,000 visitors a year. The general tour of the estate includes a guided visit to the structures (the Vives family house, the slave barracks, the warehouse, the buildings that housed the machine for removing the pulp from the coffee and the corn mill) as well as the surrounding natural areas, which includes part of the subtropical rain forest and the Canas River. Trails have been built to guide visitors through the forest, the shade coffee plantings, the fruit orchards and the trees valued for their fine wood.
Adapted by the PROE Editorial Group
Original source: Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, Descripción de las áreas y reservas naturales del Fideicomiso de Conservación de Puerto Rico.
Additional sources: Catálogo de Propiedades, Registro Nacional de Lugares Históricos.
Oficina Estatal de Conservación Histórica,Oficina del Gobernador, 1995.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: January 26, 2010.
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