Location of Utuado, Puerto Rico   Historia De Utuado PuertoRico     


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Utuado was founded October 12, 1739 by Sebastian de Morfi, on behalf of 60 families from Arecibo. It was the first town established in the interior mountainous region of the island known as La Cordillera Central and the 11th oldest established municipality in Puerto Rico, following: San Juan, San German, Coamo, Arecibo, Aguada, Loiza, Ponce, Añasco, Guayama and Manati.

Columbus's arrival

At the time of the discovery of the island on November 19, 1493 by Christopher Columbus, Puerto Rico was inhabited by the Taíno Indians. The Taínos were a culturally developed society with a universal language, a developed agricultural system, and a social organization based on Caciques or Chieftains. The Utuado area was ruled over by Cacique Guarionex and in barrio Caguana they built an impressive series of courts or bateyes, The Caguana Indian Ceremonial park or Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Caguana, that is considered the best example of Taino engineering in the West Indies.

Utuado's early history: XVI - XVIII

In his epic work El Dorado Borincano, La economia de la conquista 1510-1550, Jalil Sued Badillo gives a detailed account of the economic state of Puerto Rico during the first decades after the discovery and mentions the importance of the Otoao region. From 1510 through 1513 the island witnessed a Taino Indian rebellion as a result of harsh and inhumane treatment by the Spanish settlers. During the process of pacification many Spaniards settled in the area now occupied by the municipality of Utuado and set up farms (Haciendas), initially on behalf of the Spanish government (Hacienda Real), to provide food to the Indian slaves working the gold mines and the Spanish colonists in the area. One of the first settlers in the Otoao region in 1512 was Antonio Sedeño, the island’s bookkeeper. His farm’s main crop was yucca. His farm was sold in 1519 to Blas de Villasante, the island’s treasurer, for 525 gold pesos.

Areas in the Utuado region that were exploited for gold include Salto Arriba, initially, then later in the 1530s Caguana and Don Alonso. In the 1530s, landowners in the Don Alonso area petitioned the crown permission to establish a town in the area but it was never granted.

Once the gold mining era ends toward the end of the 1500s, very little is known about the Utuado region until the early 1700s. According to the Puerto Rican historian Fernando Picó, the few documents that exist indicate the area was mostly unpopulated and densely forested. On the other hand, he states the fact that Utuado is the municipality with the most caves, that most likely served as dwellings for Indians or runaway slaves.

The agreement to establish the town of Utuado by the 60 families of Arecibo states they purchased the "Hato de Otoao" for 569 pesos and 5 reales from owners Manuel Natal and Felipa Román. It also states their desire to choose where on the land the Town Center would be located, which indicates the area was not populated yet.

During his visit to the island in 1771, Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra states the principal economic activity in the Utuado region was cattle raising, horses and mules. He mentions a small amount of agricultural activity existed but the population only produced enough tobacco and coffee for their own consumption.

During the late 1700s and early 1800s Utuado's population continued to grow as coffee gained in importance and growers saw the need for high altitudes and mountainous terrain to produce the best coffee beans. People not only migrated from the Puerto Rican coastal towns but also from the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands of Majorca and Minorca, all seeking the riches that coffee had to offer.

The golden era of coffee - "black gold"

During the late 1800’s Utuado experienced an explosive economic growth centered around the cultivation of coffee, also known at the time as “oro negro” or “black gold.” By the 1890s Utuado was the largest producer of coffee in Puerto Rico and the second municipality (after Ponce) with the largest population. It produced a rich social lifestyle for many of its citizens and a casino and theatre were established in the town. The progress of the town was so evident that the regent Queen of Spain, Maria Cristina, honored the town with the title of Ciudad (City) on August 20, 1894.[1] In 1896 or 1897 Utuado was the first city in Puerto Rico with a public electric lighting system powered by a hydraulic turbine power plant, [2] [3] and in that same year mayor Juan Casellas was planning a train system to unite Utuado with Arecibo. By 1899 this golden era came to a screeching halt due to two very important events that had a lasting negative effect on the city’s economy. The first event was the United States occupation of the island in 1898, which made sugar the new crop of importance instead of coffee. Utuado’s mountainous landscape was not ideal for growing sugarcane making it impossible for it to compete in the sugar industry on a significant level. The second event and the one to have the most profound impact was Hurricane San Ciriaco in 1899, which literally wiped out the coffee haciendas.

Utuado visited by a President

In 1906 Utuado had the honor of being visited by President Theodore Roosevelt, who recommended building a bridge in the area known as "La Playita."

From Wikipedia




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