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Ponce ( , , : [ˈpɔnsɛ]) is both a city and a municipality in southern part of Puerto Rico. The city is the seat of the municipal government.

The City of Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico outside of the San Juanmarker metropolitan area, and is named after Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, the great-grandson of Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León. Ponce is often referred to as La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South), La Ciudad Señorial (The Noble City), and La Ciudad de las Quenepas (Genip City). The city of Ponce serves as the governmental seat of the autonomous municipality as well as the regional hub for various Government of Puerto Rico entities, such as the Judiciary of Puerto Rico. It is also the regional center for various other Commonwealth and federal government agencies. The city is also the seat of a Catholic Diocesis.

The Municipality of Ponce, officially the Autonomous Municipality of Ponce, is located in the Southern Coastal Plain region of the island, south of Adjuntasmarker, Utuadomarker, and Jayuyamarker; east of Peñuelasmarker; west of Juana Díazmarker; and bordered on the south by the Caribbean Seamarker. The municipality has a total of 31 barrios (wards), including 19 outside the city's urban area, plus those in the urban area of the city (12 additional barrios). The historic Ponce Pueblo district, located in the downtown area of the city, is shared by several of the downtown barrios, and is located approximately three miles inland from the shores of the Caribbeanmarker. Ponce is a principal city of both the Ponce Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Ponce-Yauco-Coamo Combined Statistical Area. The municipality of Ponce is the second largest in Puerto Rico by land area after the municipality of Arecibo. Ponce was the first municipality of Puerto Rico to obtain its autonomy on 27 October 1992 under a new law (The Autonomous Municipalities Act of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) enacted by the Puerto Rican legislature.

History

Early settlers

The region of what is now Ponce belonged to the Taíno Guaynia region, which stretched along the southern coast of Puerto Rico. The region was led by cacique Agüeybana. He was one of the caciques that greeted Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León when he came to the island in 1508.

During the first years of the colonization, Spanish families started settling around the Jacaguas River, in the south of the island. For security reasons, these families moved to the banks of the Portugués River, then called Barayama. Starting around 1646 the whole area from the Portugues River to the Bay of Guayanillamarker was called Ponce. In 1670, a small chapel was raised in the middle of the small settlement and dedicated in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupemarker. Among its earliest settlers were Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, and the Portuguesemarker Don Pedro Rodríguez de Guzmán, from nearby San Germánmarker.

On September 17, 1692, the King of Spain Carlos II issued a Cédula Real (Royal Permit) converting the chapel into a parish, and in so doing officially recognizing the small settlement as a hamlet. It is believed that Juan Ponce de León y Loayza, Juan Ponce de León's great-grandson, was instrumental in obtaining the royal permit to formalize the founding of the hamlet.

In the early 1700s Don Antonio Abad Rodriguez Berrios built a small chapel under the name of San Antonio Abad. The area would later receive the name of San Antón, a historically important part of modern Ponce.

19th century wave of immigrants

In the early 1800s, Ponce continue to be one of dozens of hamlets that dotted the Island. Its inhabitants survived by subsistence agriculture, cattle raising, and maritime contraband with foreigners. However, in the 1820s, three events took place that would dramatically changed the size of the town forever. The first of these events was the arrival of a significant number of Frenchmarker citizens, fleeing the Haitian Revolution of 1792-1804. The effect of this mass migration was not felt significantly until the 1820s. These French entrepreneurs were attracted to the area because of its large flatlands and came with enough capital, slaves, and commercial connections to make a significant impact in Ponce's sugar cane production. The second event was the arrival of landlords and merchants from Latin American countries (and in particular from Venezuelamarker) resulting from the deteorization of the Spanish Empire in Central and South America when those countries gained their independence from Spain in the 1810s-1820s. The third event was the declaration of the Spanish Royal Decree of Graces of 1815, which allowed any citizen of a country politically friendly to Spain to settle in Puerto Rico as long as they converted to the Catholic faith and agreed to work in the agricultural business. With such mass migrations, not only the size of the town was changed, but the character of its population was changed as well.

On July 29, 1848, and as a result of this explosive growth, the Ponce hamlet was declared a villa (village) by Queen Isabella II, and in 1877 the village obtained its city charter.

The Royal Decree of Graces of 1815, also brought a strong influx of immigrants from Europe, further strengthening its economy and assuring its progress. Immigrants came from regions like Cataloniamarker, the Balearic Islandsmarker, and other regions of eastern Spainmarker, as well as from the United Kingdommarker, Germanymarker and Francemarker. This was in addition to the wealthy Spaniards who fled from the independence revolts in Cubamarker, Colombiamarker, and Venezuelamarker.



Some of these immigrants made considerable fortunes in coffee, corn and sugarcane harvesting, rum production, banking and finance, the importing of industrial machinery, iron foundries and other enterprises. At the time of the American invasion of the Island in 1898, Ponce was not only the largest city in Puerto Rico, but was also (since 1827) the principal financial center in the Island, had the Island's first communications link to another country (since 1875), the best capitalized financial institutions, and its own currency. It had consular offices for Englandmarker, Germanymarker, the Netherlandsmarker, and other nations.

While Europe was celebrating its Belle Époque (Victorian era), Ponce followed suit with its own exposition fair, the Ponce Fair. Following trends set in Europe and elsewhere, in 1877, Don Miguel Rosich conceptualized an exposition fair for Ponce. This was approved in 1880, and the exposition fair was held in the city in 1882, where several industrial and agricultural advancements were shown. "It is important to establish a relationship between the European exhibitions that I have mentioned and the Ponce Fair, as the Fair was meant as a showcase of the advancements of the day: Agriculture, Trade, Industry, and the Arts. Just as with the 1878 World's Fair in Paris, the electric grid of the city of Ponce was inaugurated on the first day of the Ponce Fair. In this occasion the Plaza Las Delicias and various other buildings, including the Merchatile Union Building, the Ponce Casinomarker, and some of Ponce's homes were illuminated with the incandescent light bulb for the first time".

In 1899, Ponce was ravaged by an enormous fire. The fire threatened to destroy much of the south coast, but thanks to the firemen of Ponce (who operated from Ponce's Parque de Bombasmarker fire station) Ponce and the south were saved. The fire station in the central plaza has since become a museum and tourist attraction. The station continued serving the Ponce community until 1990, when it was closed and the building's activities were entirely dedicated to a museum, which is still open to the general public.

Ponce in the 20th century

U.S. Invasion

US troopships and convoy at Playa de Ponce, in 1898, began a period of economic stagnation for Ponce
At the time of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Puerto Rico in 1898 during the Spanish–American War, Ponce was the largest city in the island. With a population of 22,000, Ponce had the best road in Puerto Rico, built by the Spaniards for military purposes and running from Ponce to San Juanmarker. The taking of Ponce by American troops "was a critical turning point in the Puerto Rican campaign. For the first time the Americans held a major port to funnel large numbers of men and quantities of war material into the island." Ponce also had underwater telegraph cable connections with Jamaicamarker and the West Indiesmarker, putting the US forces on the island in direct communication with Washingtonmarker for the first time since the start of the campaign. Just prior to the United States occupation of the Island, Ponce was a flourishing and dynamic city with 20 kilometers of streets in the urban core, 38 public buildings, four education centers, three hospitals, seven locations for public beneficence, a large number of industries and commercial firms, and a great number of exquisite residences that reflected the high standing of Ponce's bourgeoisies. The most important statesman of the time in the Island, Luis Munoz Rivera, by the close of the 19th century referred to Ponce as "the most Puerto Rican city of Puerto Rico."

The Americans disembarked at Playa de Ponce on July 27 via the Cincinnati, Dixie, Wasp, and Gloucester. Reinforcements arrived next day July 28, after marching from their landing at Guánicamarker, under General Miles, and the Americans took possession of the city. There were skirmishes in the city, but no major battle was fought. On the Spanish side, three men were killed and 13 wounded, while four Americans were wounded. The American flag was raised in the town center that same day and most of the Spanish troops retreated into the surrounding mountains. The U.S. Army then established its headquarters in Ponce.

Period of stagnation

After the U.S. invasion, the Americans chose to centralize the administration of the island in San Juanmarker, the capital, starting a period of socio-economic stagnation for Ponce. This was worsened by several factors:

This prompted the residents to initiate measures to attract economic activity back into the city. Also, a solid manufacturing industry surged that still remains. Examples of this are the Ponce Cementmarker, Puerto Rico Iron Works, Vassallo Industries, and Destilería Serrallés.

Ponce massacre



On March 21, 1937, a peaceful march was organized in Ponce by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. The march turned into a bloody event when the Insular Police ("a force somewhat resembling the National Guard of the typical U.S. state" and which answered to the U.S.-appointed governor Blanton Winship) opened fire upon what a U.S. Congressman and others reported were unarmed and defenseless cadets and bystanders alike killing 19 and badly wounding over 200 more, many in their backs while running away. An ACLU report declared the event a massacre and it has since been known as the Ponce massacremarker. It is the largest massacre in Puerto Rican history.

The history of this event can be viewed at the Ponce Massacre Museummarker on Marina Street. An open-air park in the city, the Pedro Albizu Campos Park, is dedicated to the memory of the leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. Ponce has been identified as "the birthplace of Puerto Rican national identity." Ponce history in general is illustrated at the Ponce History Museum, on the block bordered by Isabel, Mayor, Cristina, and Salud streets in the historic downtown area.

Despite this tragedy, Ponce has continued to be a hub of political activity in the Island, being the founding site of several major political parties. It has also been the birthplace of several important political figures of the island, including Luis A. Ferré and Rafael Hernández Colón, both former governors of Puerto Rico, as well as the childhood town of governor Roberto Sanchez Vilella.

The Mameyes landslide



On October 7, 1985, Ponce was the scene of a major tragedy, when at least 129 people lost their lives to a mudslide in a sector of Barrio Tibes called Mameyes. International help was needed to rescue people and recover corpses. The United States and many other countries, including Mexicomarker, Francemarker, and Venezuelamarker, sent economic, human, and machinery relief. The Commonwealth government, subsequently, relocated hundreds of people to a new community built on stableground. In 2005, the National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction of the United States reported that the Mameyes landslide held the record for having inflicted "the greatest loss of life by a single landslide" up to that year.

Recent history

Ponce has improved his economy in the last years. In recent years, Ponce has solidified its position as the second most important city of Puerto Rico based on its economic progress and increasing population. Ponce's mayor for 15 years (since 1989), Rafael Cordero Santiago, died in office on the morning of January 17, 2004, after suffering three successive brain strokes. Vice-mayor Delis Castillo Rivera de Santiago finished off his term. Cordero was succeeded by Francisco Zayas Seijo. In the general elections of 2008 María "Mayita" Meléndez was elected as the current mayor of the city of Ponce.

The complete history of Ponce can be appreciated at the Museo de la Historia de Ponce, which opened in the city in 1992. It depicts the history of the city from its early settlement days until the close of the twentieth century.

Geography

The municipality of Ponce includes many acres of deep humid forests.
The city of Ponce can be seen in the far background.


In terms of physical features, the municipality occupies a roughly rectangular area in south-central portion of the Island of approximately 10 miles wide (east-to-west) by 13 miles long (north-to-south). The main physiographic features of the municipality of Ponce in a southward direction are: (1) the mountainous interior containing the headwaters of the main river systems, (2) an upper plain, (3) a range of predominantly east-west trending limestone hills, (4) a coastal plain, and (5) a coastal flat. The northern two-thirds of the municipality consists of the mountainous interior, with the southern third divided between hills, coastal plains, and the coastal flat.

Ponce's municipal territory reaches the central mountain range to the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south. Geographically speaking, the southern area of the territory is part of the Ponce-Patillas alluvial plain subsector and the southern coastal plain, which were created by the consolidation of the valleys of the southern side of the central mountain range and the Cayey mountain range. The central area of the municipality is part of the semi-arid southern hills. These two regions are classified as being the driest on the island. The northern part of the municipality is considered to be within the rainy western mountains. The lowest elevation is sea level. The highest elevation is Cerro de Puntamarker, at 1,338 meters (4,390 feet) over sea level. Cerro de Puntamarker, which also happens to be the highest elevation in Puerto Rico, is located on the boundary between Ponce's Barrio Anón and Jayuyamarker's Barrio Veguitas. Barrio Anon is home to Cerro Maravillamarker, a peak that at 1,245 meters is Puerto Rico's fourth highest peak.

Nineteen (19) barrios comprise the rural areas of the municipality, and the topology of their lands varies from flatlands to hills to extremely treacherous mountains. The hilly barrios of the municipality (moving clockwise around the outskirts of the city) are these seven: Quebrada Limon, Marueño, Magueyes, Tibes, Portugues, Machuelo, and Cerrillos. The barrios of Canas, Coto Laurel, Capitanejo, Sabanetas, Vayas, and Bucaná also surround the outskits of the city but these are mostly flat. The remaining six (6) other barrios are further away from the city and their topology is rugged mountain terrain. These are (clockwise): Guaraguao, San Patricio, Monte Llano, Maraguez, Anón, and Real. The ruggedness of these barrios is because through these areas of the municipality runs the Central Mountain Range of the Island.. The remaining barrios are part of the urban zone of the city. There are six barrios in the core urban zone of the municipalty named Primero, Segundo, Tercero, Cuarto, Quinto, and Sexto. They are delimetered by streets, rivers, or major highways. For example, Barrio Tercero is bounded in the north by Isabel Street, in the east by the Portugues River, in the south by Calle Comercio, and the west by Plaza Las Delicias. Barrio Tercero includes much of what is called the historic district.

There is a seismic detector that the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, has placed in Barrio Cerrillos.

Land features

Elevations include Cerro de Puntamarker at 1,338 meters (4,390 feet), the highest in Puerto Rico, located on the boundary between Barrio Anón in Ponce and Barrio Veguitas in Jayuyamarker. Mount Jayuya, at 1,315 meters (4,314 feet) is located on the boundary between Barrio Anón and Barrio Saliente in Jayuya. Cerro Maravilla, at nearly 1,210 meters (3,970 feet) above sea level, is located to the east of Barrio Anón. There are many other mountains at lower elevations in the municipality, such as the Montes Llanos ridge and Mount Diablo, at 680 meters (2,231 feet) and Mount Marueño, at 640 meters (2,100 feet), and Pinto Peak, among others. Part of the Toro Negro Forest is located in Barrio Anón. Coastal promontories include Cuchara, Peñoncillo, Carnero, and Cabullón points.
Fifty-six (56) percent of the municipality consists of slopes 10 degrees or greater.


Water features

The rivers comprising the hydrographic system of Ponce are Jacaguas, Inabón, Bucaná , Portugués, Cañas, San Patricio, and Matilde . The Jacaguas River runs for a brief stretch on the southeast area of the municipality. The Inabón River springs from Anón ward and runs through the municipality for some 28.5 kilometers (18 miles); the tributaries of the Inabón are the Anón and Guayo rivers and the Emajagua Brook. The Bucaná River springs from Machuelo Arriba ward and runs for 29.5 kilometers (18.5 miles) into the Caribbean Sea. The tributaries of the Bucaná are the San Patricio, Bayagán, and Prieto Rivers and Ausubo brook. The Portugués River springs from the ward of that name in Adjuntas, and runs for 27.6 kilometers (17.3 miles) into the Caribbean sea at Ponce Playa ward. The Matilde River, also known as the Pastillo River, runs for 19 kilometers (12 miles); its tributaries are the Cañas River and the Limón and del Agua brooks. Lakes in Ponce include Bronce and Ponceña as well as lakes bearing numbers: Uno, Dos, Tres, and Cinco; and the Salinas lagoon, which is considered a restricted lagoon. Other water bodies are the springs at Quintana and the La Guancha and El Tuque beaches. There is also a beach at Caja de Muertos Islandmarker. Lake Cerrillos is located within the limits of the municipality.

Geographic features of the coast include Cabullón inlet, and Ratones, Cardona, Gato, and Fríos keys. Caja de Muertos Islandmarker and Morrillito islet are located at the boundary between Ponce and Juana Díaz. There is a mangrove covering an area of approximately 40 hectares at Cabullón promontory and Fríos keys. The mangrove at Salinas lagoon covers an area of about 15 hectares. The Rita cave is located in Cerrillos ward."

Climate

Ponce has winter highs averaging 87°F (30.5°C) and summer highs, 93°F (34°C). It has a record high of 100°F (38°C), which occurred on August 21, 2003, and a record low of 51 °F (10.5°C) which occurred on February 28, 2004, tieing the record low of 51 °F from January 25, 1993. The city averages about 40 inches of rain per year. The long-term mean annual rainfall in the municipality of Ponce ranges from 36 inches in the coastal plain to 100 in. at the highest elevations of the mountainous interior. The mean annual temperature in the municipality is 26 degrees Celsius (ºC).

Cityscape

Architecture

During the 19th century, the city was witness to a flourishing architectural development. Architects like Francisco Valls, Manuel Víctor Domenech, Eduardo Salich, Blas Saliva Boucher, Agustín Camilo González, Alfredo Wiechers, Francisco Porrata Doria and Francisco Gardón Vega used a mixture of Art Nouveau and neoclassic styles to give the city a unique look. This can be seen in the various structures located in the center of the city like the Teatro La Perla. To showcase its rich architectural heritage, the city has opened the Museum of Puerto Rican Architecturemarker at the Wiechers-Villarongamarker residence.

Many of the city's features (from house façades to street corners) are modeled on Barcelonamarker's architecture, given the city's strong Catalonian heritage.

Barrios

The municipality of Ponce is made up of 31 barrios (wards/districts). The 2000 Census showed that Barrio Canas was by far the most populated ward of the municipality. This, however, is not due to higher population density, but its larger area.

A summary of all the barrios of the municipality as given by the U.S. Census Bureau is as follows::





  • Playa
  • Portugués
  • Portugués Urbano
  • Primero
  • Quebrada Limón
  • Quinto
  • Real
  • Sabanetas




Tourism

Due to its historical importance throughout the years, Ponce features many points of interest for visiting tourists. The downtown area contains the bulk of Ponce's tourist attractions. Tourism has seen significant growth in recent years. In 2007, over 6,000 tourists visited the city via cruise ships. Passenger movement at the Mercedita Airportmarker in FY 2008 was 278,911, an astounding 1,228% increase over fiscal year 2003 and the highest of all the regional airports for that 5-year period. Though not all of these were tourists, it represents a volume larger than the population of the city ifself.

To support a growing tourist industry, around the 1970s, and starting with the Ponce Holiday Inn, several hotels have been built. Newer lodging additions include the Ponce Hilton Golf & Casino Resort, home to the new Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club, featuring a 27-hole PGA championship golf course. Many large hotel chains are also represented including Howard Johnson's, Ramada, and Quality Inn. The Melia Hotel has operated in the city continuosly since the early 1900s. Intercontinental, built in the 1940s is under refurbishment and expected to re-open atop the hill near El Vigiamarker as the Magna Vista Resort. Other hotel projects in the works include the Ponce Plaza Hotel, Four Points by Sheraton, and Marriott Courtyard, among others.

Ponce en Marcha

In recent years an intensive $440 million dollar revitalization project called "Ponce en Marcha" ("Ponce on the Move") has increased the city's historic area from 260 to 1,046 buildings. The Ponce en Marcha project was conceived in 1985 by then governor Rafael Hernández Colón during his second term in La Fortalezamarker. A significant number of buildings in Ponce are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The nonprofit Project for Public Places listed the historic downtown Ponce city center as one of the 60 of the World's Great Places, for its "graciously preserved showcase of Caribbean culture". The revitalized historic area of the city goes by various names, including "Ponce Centro" (Ponce Center), "Historic Ponce", and "Historic District."

Landmarks



The city has been christened as Museum City for its many quality museums. Downtown Ponce in particular features several museums and landmarks.

Plaza Las Delicias, the town's main square, features a beautiful fountain (namely, the "Lions Fountain"), the Ponce Cathedralmarker, and Parque de Bombasmarker. This plaza is also a usual gathering place for "ponceños". Other buildings around Ponce's main plaza include the Casa Alcaldía (Ponce City Hallmarker), the oldest colonial building in the city, dating to the 1840s, and the Armstrong-Poventud Residencemarker, an example of the neoclassical architectural heritage of the island.

Just north of downtown Ponce lies the Serrallés Castlemarker and the Cruceta El Vigíamarker, a 100-foot observation tower which overlooks the city. The Serralles castle is reported to receive nearly 100,000 visitors every year. The hill on which the Cruceta is located was originally used by scouts to scan for incoming mercantile ships as well as invading ones. The invasion of American troops in 1898 was first spotted from here.

Puerto Rico's oldest cemetery is in Ponce; in fact, it is the oldest cemetery in the Antilles. In the city outskirts, the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Centermarker was discovered in 1975 after hurricane rains uncovered pottery. The center is the site of the oldest cemetery uncovered up to date in the Antilles. With some 200 skeletons unearthed from the year 300 AD it is considered the largest and the most important archaeological finding in the West Indies. Two other cemeteries in Ponce are worth noting. The Panteón Nacional Román Baldorioty de Castromarker contains the remains illustrious men and women of Puerto Rico. The Cementerio Catolico San Vicente de Paulmarker has the most eye-catching burial constructions of any cemetery for the wealthiest families, both local and foreign-born, of southern Puerto Rico. Both of these cemeteries are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



Also in the city outskirts is Hacienda Buena Vistamarker, an estate built in 1833 originally to growing fruits. It was converted into a coffee plantation and gristmill in 1845. It remained in operation until 1937, then fell into disrepair, but was restored by the government's Fideicomiso de Conservación de Puerto Rico. All the machinery works (the metal parts) are original, operated by water channeled from the 360 m Vives waterfall; there is a hydraulic turbine which makes the corn mill work.

Paseo Tablado La Guancha is located in the town's sea shore. It features kiosks with food and beverages, an open-space stage for activities, and a marina. From the observation tower on the boardwalk, Cardona Island Lightmarker can be seen. A 45-minute boat ride is also available to Isla de Caja de Muertosmarker (Coffin Island), a small beach island with an 1887 lighthousemarker.

The city is also building an aquarium, that will double as the "Oceanographic Studies Center of the Caribbean. It is due for completion in early 2010.

As of 2008, the City had also engaged in the development of a Convention Center with a capacity for 3,000 people. It was also to include two major hotels, apartment buildings, and recreational facilities.

Puerto Rico Route 143 (PR-143), known as the Panoramic Route, runs edging near the municipality's northern border.

Culture

The city is home to a long list of cultural assets including libraries, museums, galleries, and parks, hundreds of buildings of historical value including schools, residences, bridges, and estates, and frequent activities such as festivals and carnivals. The municipality invests close to half a million dollars in promoting its cultural assets. It established its first library in 1894 and, as of 2007 had a new central library with five other branches scattered throughout the municipality.



The city values its cultural traditions as evidenced by the revitalization project Ponce En Marcha. It is deeply rooted in its old cultural, artistic, and musical heritage. The love for art and architecture, for example, can be appreciated at its museums of art, music, and architecture. "Over the last century or so, the north [i.e., San Juan] willingly accepted the influence of western culture with its tendency toward large sprawling metropolises, and the displacement of old values and attitudes. Ponce, on the other hand, has been content to retain its old traditions and culture. Ponce is not concerned about losing its long standing position as the second largest city in population after San Juan. On the contrary, she prefers to maintain her current size, and stick to its old traditions and culture."

Some argue that the Ponceño culture is different from the rest of the Island: "Ponceños have always been a breed apart from other Puerto Ricans. Their insularity and haughtiness are legendary, and some Puerto Ricans claim that even the dialect in Ponce is slightly different from that spoken in the rest of the Island. They are also racially different: you'll see more people of African descent in Ponce than anywhere else in the Island except Loizamarker." Others claim that Ponceños exhibit considerable more civic pride than do residents of other locales.

Music

The artistic development also flourished during this period. The surging of popular rhythms like Bomba and Plena took place in the south region of the island, mainly in Ponce. Barrio San Antón is known as one of the birthplaces of the rhythm. Every July, Ponce celebrates an annual festival of Bomba and Plena which includes various musicians and parades.

Immigrants from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and England came to Ponce to develop an international city that still maintains its rich Taíno and African heritage. The African personality, belief, and music add flavor and colorful rhythm to Ponce's culture. Part of this are the influences of the Bomba and Plena rhythms. These are a combination and Caribbean and African music.

Ponce has also been the birthplace of several well-known singers and musicians. From opera singers like Antonio Paoli, who was renowned all around the world during the early 1900s, to contemporary singers like Ednita Nazario (pop) and Tempo (reggaeton). Also, countless Salsa singers like Héctor Lavoe, Cheo Feliciano, and Ismael Quintana also come from the city.

Dating back to 1858, Ponce's Carnival is the oldest in Puerto Rico, and acquired an international flavor for its 150th anniversary. It is one of the oldest carnivals celebrated in the Western Hemisphere. It features various parades with masked characters representative of good and evil.

The Museum of Puerto Rican Music, located at the Serrallés-Nevárez family residence in downtown Ponce, illustrates music history on the Island, most of which had its origin and development in Ponce.

No discussion of music in Ponce would be complete without rendering honor to the great performances of King of Tenors Antonio Paoli and danza master Juan Morel Campos, both from Ponce. Today, there is a statue of Juan Morell Campos that adorns the Plaza Las Delicias city square, and the homemarker where Paoli was born and raised functions as the Puerto Rico Center for Folkloric Research, a research center for Puerto Rican culture.

Arts

Ponce's love for the arts dates back to at least 1864 when the Teatro La Perla was built. Ponce is also the birthplace of artists like Miguel Pou, Horacio Castaing, and several others in the fields of painting, sculpture, and others. The City is one of only seven cities in the Western Hemispheremarker (the others being Mexico Citymarker, Havanamarker, Valparaisomarker, Buenos Airesmarker, Mar del Platamarker, and Rosariomarker) in the Ruta Europea del Modernisme, an international non-profit association for the promotion and protection of Art Nouveau heritage in the world.

Today, Ponce has more museums (nine) than any other municipality in the Island. Ponce is home to the Museo de Arte de Poncemarker (MAP), founded in 1959 by fellow "ponceño" Luis A. Ferré. The museum was operated by Ferré until his death at the age of 99, and it is now under the direction of the Luis A. Ferré Foundation. Designed by Edward Durell Stone, renowned architect of Radio City Music Hallmarker and the Museum of Modern Artmarker in New Yorkmarker, MAP is the only museum of international stature on the Island, the only one accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM), and the only one that has received a design prize of honor from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). It houses the most extensive art collection in the Caribbean.

Sports

Most of Ponce's professional teams are called the Leones de Ponce (Ponce Lions, or Ponce Lionesses as the case may be) regardless of the sport. The Leones de Ponce basketball team is one of the leading teams of the island winning a total of twelve championships during their tenure. The team's venue is the Juan Pachín Vicéns Auditoriummarker. The teams of baseball and volleyball (male and female) have also been fairly successful. The baseball team venue is the Francisco Montaner Stadiummarker. The stadium is located next to the Juan Pachín Vicéns Auditorium.

In 2007 Ponce was host to Club Atlético River Plate Puerto Rico futbol team, which currently plays in the Puerto Rico Soccer League. They play at Francisco Montaner Stadiummarker and are expected to play in the United Soccer Leagues, Division 1, in 2008, becoming the second professional soccer team in Puerto Rico to join the League. Ponce was also host to the 1993 Central American and Caribbean Games.

The Francisco "Pancho" Coimbre Sports Museum in Ponce, named after the baseball player of the same name, was dedicated to the honor of Puerto Rico's great sports men and women.

Recreation

The municipality is home to several parks and beaches, including both passive and active parks. Among the most popular passive parks are the Enrique Monagas Family Park on Ponce By-Pass Road (PR-2) at the location where the Portugues and Bucana rivers merge. The Parque Urbano Dora Colon Clavell, another passive park is in the downtown area. Active parks include the Charles H. Terry Athletic Field, and several municipal tennis courts. There are also many public basketball courts scattered throughout the various barrios of the municipality.

The municipality has three beaches, namely, El Tuque Beach in the El Tuque sector on highway PR-2 west of the city, La Guancha Beach at the La Guancha Sector south of the city, and Caja de Muertos Beachmarker at Isla Caja de Muertos, offshore. A ferry must be boarded at La Guancha for transportation to Caja de Muertos Beach.

Economy



Traditionally the city's economy had depended almost entirely on the sugar cane industry. Since around the 1950s, however, the town's economy has diversified and today its economy revolves around a mixed-industry manufacturing sector, retail, and tourism. The soon-to-be-complete mega portmarker is expected to add significantly to the area's economy. Agriculture, retail, and services are also significant players in the local economy. "It is an agricultural, trade, and distribution center. Industries include tourism, the processing of agricultural products, rum distilling, canning, and diamond cutting. Manufactures include textiles, shoes, cement, paper, electrical devices, and metal products." The city, though, suffers from an unemployment rate that hovers around the 15 percent mark.

Manufacturing

The municipality is considered one of the most developed municipalities in Puerto Rico. Its manufacturing sectors include electronic and electrical equipment, communications equipment, food processing, pharmaceutical drugs, concrete plants, and scientific instruments. It also produces leather product, needlework, and fish flour to a lesser extend. Ponce is home to the Serralles rum distillery, which manufactures Don Q, Captain Morgan, and Parrot Bay rums. It is also home to Industrias Vassallo, a leader in PVC manufacturing. Another important local manufacturer is Ponce Cement.

Agriculture

In the agricultural sector, the most important products are coffee, followed by plantains, bananas, oranges, and grapefruits. A mix of public and private services, as well as finance, retail sales, and construction round up Ponce's economic rhythm. Cafe Rico, which metamorphosed from coffee-grower Cafeteros de Puerto Rico, has its headquarters in Ponce.

Retail

For many years commercial retail activity in Ponce centered around what is now Paseo Atocha. This has shifted in recent years, and most retail activity today occurs in one of Ponce's various mall, in particular Plaza del Caribe. Centro del Sur is also a significant retail area, as is Ponce Mall.

Mega port

Ponce is home to Puerto Rico's chief Caribbeanmarker port, the Port of Poncemarker. The port is currently under expansion to transform it into a mega port, called the Port of the Americasmarker that will operate as an international transshipment port. When fully operational, it is expected to support 100,000 jobs.

Demographics


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