The municipality of Villalba is known as the “City of Advances,” the “City of Lakes,” the “City of Cooperatives” and the “City of Pigeon Peas.” Its residents are called Villalbeños. The patron saint is Nuestra Señora del Carmen. Some say that the name of the municipality comes from a visit by the Duke of Alba. The residents later decided to name the town Villa-Alba. Others say the name comes from a Galician family believed to have lived in the region.
The territory of Villalba covers 37 square miles. The municipality has 27,913 residents (2000 census). The municipality is divided into the sectors of: Villalba Pueblo, Caonillas Abajo, Caonillas Arriba, Hato Puerco Abajo, Hato Puerco Arriba, Vacas, Villalba Abajo and Villalba Arriba.
Planting and harvesting pigeon peas are part of the economy of the municipality. The crop is processed and canned in a plant in Villalba. The municipality also has various factories producing machinery and electronic equipment, as well as food products and aluminum containers.
Villalba is bordered on the north by the municipality of Orocovis, on the east by Coamo, and on the south and west by Juana Díaz. Geographically, Villalba is part of the sub-region known as the southern hills. It is located south of the central mountain range in the rainy part of the semi-arid foothills. Higher elevations in the municipality are La Corona and La Montería peaks. The latter rises to 1,574 feet (479.74 meters).
The hydrological system of Villalba consists of the Jacaguas River, the Toa Vacas River, and the Achiote, Cuesta Pasto, Meolaya, De los Güiros and Jagüeyes streams. The Jacaguas River forms between the sectors of Hato Puerco Arriba and Vacas. It extends for 36 kilometers (22.5 miles) before emptying into the Caribbean Sea. The Toa Vacas River, a tributary of the Jacaguas, is fed by La Cotorra, Limón and Grande streams. Villalba also has the Toa Vacas and Guayabal reservoirs. Toa Vacas was built in the watershed of the Jacaguas River. Its original capacity was approximately 69 million cubic meters.
The municipality is also the site of Indian Cave. This cave is deep, dark and wet. Archaeologists studied the site in the 1970s when the Guaynía Archaeology and History Society of Ponce located, inventoried and studied two caves in the Hacienda El Limón.area of the Caonillas Arriba sector.
Villalba was a sector of Ponce. It was separated from that municipality and annexed to Juana Díaz in 1823. Later, in the middle of the 19th century, the area was divided into Villalba Abajo and Villalba Arriba. At that time, the area depended on growing sugar cane and fruit.
In 1917, the sectors of Hato Puerco Arriba, Hato Puerco Abajo, Caonillas Arriba, Caonillas Abajo, Villalba Arriba and Villalba Abajo were separated from Juana Díaz and an autonomous community was formed with the official name of Villalba.
During the early decades of the 20th century, a United States legislator, Walter McJones, organized residents of Villalba to create an independent municipality. The effort became reality with Law No. 42 of April 12, 1917, approved by the Puerto Rico legislative assembly, which created the new municipal entity with the name Villalba. At that time, Villalba consisted of the sectors of Caonillas Abajo, Caonillas Arriba, Hato Puerco Abajo, Hato Puerco Arriba, Villalba Abajo and Villalba Arriba, and was separated from Juana Díaz.
Others say the separation of Villalba from Juana Díaz was begun in 1916 by José Víctor Figueroa, who was a delegate to the House from the Ponce district from 1914 to 1917 and was a representative from 1917 to 1924. Historians agree that the founders of Villalba were José Ramón Figueroa and Walter McJones.
In 1875, Pope Leo XIII granted permission for the construction of a church to be called the Virgen del Carmen Parish, in honor of Carmen Reyes de Figueroa.
In 1940, Villalba still had a small sugar mill. During the 1970s, it relied on the cultivation of pigeon peas and coffee. At that time, some 3,500 cuerdas of land were devoted to growing pigeon peas and there were two coffee farms: El Limón and El Semil.
The municipality is known as the City of Advances because the first hydroelectric plant in Puerto Rico was built there in 1929. This event made Villalba the first town on the island to have electricity. Today, the plant is called Toro Negro and generates electricity for all of Puerto Rico.
The flag of Villalba carries a design similar to that of the municipal coat of arms, with the difference that the metallic colors of gold and silver are substituted with the colors of yellow and white, respectively. It consists of four horizontal bands of unequal width, with the following colors from top to bottom: green, off-white, green, yellow. On the side of the flag toward the pole, in the upper band, is the bright star from the coat of arms, in white.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms consists of an image of a Puerto Rican village from the 19th century, with six houses and a silver-colored church. The church bears a symbol of the Carmelite order and above to its right is a silver-colored shining star. At the top is a crowned wall with three towers. The town is represented by the buildings and the morning star. The Carmelite emblem alludes to the patron saint, Nuestra Señora del Carmen. The other symbols refer to the surname Figueroa, reminiscent of the embroidery of the founder, José Ramón Figueroa. The crowned wall is distinctive of municipalities. Under the seal is a ribbon with the inscription Villalba.
1917 Guillermo Quesada
1917-1920 Walter Mc Jones
1920-1924 Guillermo Quesada
1924-1925 Florencio Figueroa, Ismael Rivera
1925 Ismael Rivera y Julio Olivieri
1925-1926 Cristino Torres (interino)
1926-1928 Bernardo Negrón
1928 Luis Zayas
1928-1932 Guillermo Quesada
1932-1936 Ramón V. Colón
1936-1940 Manuel Negrón
1940-1946 Luis Zayas Pérez
1946-1956 Efraín Suárez
1956-1968 Félix Luis Hernández
1968-1972 Ramón Negrón
1972-1976 Adrián Rosado Guzmán
1976-1983 Wilfredo Negrón
1983-2000 Bernardo Negrón Montalvo
2000-2004 Orlando Torres
2004-currently Waldemar Rivera
hon. Waldemar Rivera Torres
Places of Interest
• La Corona Peak
• Maravilla Peak
• Doña Juana Waterfall
• Lake Guayabal
• Lake Toa Vacas
• Toro Negro Forest Preserve
Doel López – poet and historian
Carlos Mercado – poet
Virgilio Negrón – poet
Daniel Serrano – poet
Moisés Aponte – painter
Maximino Miranda Jiménez – senator
Patron Saint Festival – July
Puerto Rico Marathon – July
Areyto Festival – November
Carlos Báez Marathon – December
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 04, 2010.
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