Ponce Center City

The Historic District, Center City
Ponce, PR

Submitted by: Maria Fernanda Vallecillo

The historic district of Ponce is a pleasant walk into a graceful past.

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Why It Works

Plaza Las Delicias, the main square of Ponce, had a fortuitous accident. It is two squares in one: The Parque de Bombas (which see) divides two plazas: Plaza Degetau and Plaza Luis Muñoz Rivera. This makes the area extremely roomy with a great number of monuments, attractions, and historical markers all around it and plenty of benches to sit rest, eat some exotic ice and see the people pass. Also a beautiful fountain and a memorial to Juan Morel Campos, the great Puerto Rican composer of our national dance, the danza, makes you feel as if you were hearing that music of long ago. If you want to have a different perspective of the area you can take one of the calesas (horse drawn carriage), which will give you a wider view of the area. (I did not see them two years ago, but I was told the were being repaired)

An important aspect of Ponce is that it has had the foresight to preserve the many XIX century buildings that stand around the main square’s expanse. Two of them are right in the square. The first you cannot miss: the Parque de Bombas (Fire Department). It was built in 1882 as the Pavilion for the Agricultural Fair. The next year it was seceded to the Fire Department and it was an active firehouse until 1990, when it became a museum. It is a wonderful place to wander amidst the memorabilia of the old firehouse. The other is the cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Most of the time it is open to the public and its altar is well worth a peek. Around the square you will find the Armstrong –Poventud House with its cariatid columns. Not too far away, but still a lovely walk is Casa Salazar, an architectural treasure that houses the Museum of the History of Ponce.

There is walking mall, on what used to be Calle Atocha, which has an innumerable amount of stores. At the end a beautiful Art Deco movie theater with Mediterranean influence (Fox Delicias) has been converted into an air-conditioned place where you can get any type of fast food you want. This walking mall opens right in front of the square. Another fascinating shop is El Coquí. This store is dedicated to Puerto Rican artifacts that range from pure kitsch, to beautiful vegigante masks (one has to see them) and artisan renditions of the “santos,” beautiful enough for the Smithsonian.

The historic district that spreads from the sun drenched square is a pleasant walk into a graceful past, with the Teatro La Perla and many beautiful homes, still inhabited, that graced its lovely streets.

History & Background

A great grandson of Juan Ponce de León founded Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the end of the 17th Century. Like most Spanish colonial towns it had a square with a church and the cábildo o casa alcaldía (municipal building). These two buildings, church and state, were the center of any colonial city life. Of course, the center is still the square and it merits a relaxing stroll among its many well-preserved architectural jewel, interesting stores and delightful street vendors that offer the public ices with such exotic tastes as parcha, guanábana, guava, mangoes and coconut (for me, the best). This legacy, and the well use of the space, has made of Ponce a delightful city to visit, offering the visitor a sense of rest and peaceful dignity.

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