Ceiba is a municipality located in the east of Puerto Rico. Consisting of 7 wards and Ceiba Pueblo administrative centre, the total area of Ceiba, Puerto Rico covers just over 70 sq km of terrain. To the north, Ceiba is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west of the municipality is Rio Grande, Fajardo and Luquillo, to the south is Naguabo and to the east, the sound of Vieques. Ceiba, Puerto Rico is part of the eastern coastal valleys, with fertile soil on the lower plains and at higher elevations, exposed rocky terrain.
The highest points in the area at Picos de Este, at 1051 metres above sea level, and Picos de Oeste at 1020 metres above sea level, while the central area of the municipality ranges between 100 – 500 metres elevation. The rivers of Ceiba, Puerto Rico are Rio Fajardo, with the Sonadora and Rinco streams, Rio Demajagua and Rio Dagaou, with Agua Seca and Agua Clara streams.
History of Ceiba, Puerto Rico
Long before the colonisation of Puerto Rico for the Spanish Crown, the island was inhabited by an indigenous group known as the Taíno. The area which is now Ceiba was ruled by a Taíno chieftain (cacique) called Daguao. Daguao played an important role in resistance fighting against the Spanish, and records show that, along with another cacique, Jumacao, was involved in the burning of Spanish settlements.
Ceiba was not established until later in the colonisation process. The initial plan for the new municipality started in the mid 1830s, when land was donated for a settlement by Juan R Davila and Juan Velazquez. Villagers living in the La Ceiba neighborhood of Fajardo put forward a request to create anew settlement, with the aim of making it easier to seek spiritual/religious guidance and to implement the justice system of the island.
Records from the time show that amongst those in favour of the new settlement were Don Francisco Meléndez, Don Ramón Torres, Don José Ramón Ávila, Don Blás de la Rosa, Don Dionisio Vega y Don Luis de la Cruz.
There was opposition to the plans from some residents of Fajardo, but on April 7, 1837 the governor Francisco J Moreda Prieto gave permission for the municipality to form. Ceiba, Puerto Rico officially became a new settlement on May 12 1838, with Luis de la Cruz as its founder.
Ceiba remained peaceful over the following years, with its first church being built from wood and stone in 1948 (it was later rebuilt by the well-known architect Luis Perocier in the 1930s). However, the population remained low, and was effected further by an island-wide cholera outbreak in 1855-56.
In 1898, Spain were forced to withdraw their hold on Puerto Rico, when their overseas territories were ceded to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris. In September of the same year, US troops were stationed in the Ceiba area. One year later, on 8 August 1899, Hurricane San Ciriaco hit Puerto Rico. Rain fell for 28 days, the high winds destroyed crops and homes, and thousands of people were killed.
Ceiba was badly affected by the hurricane, and the government decided to annex it to Fajardo for administrative purposes. Ceiba, Puerto Rico did not regain its status as an individual municipality until 1914.
In 1919, Ceiba, Puerto Rico again became the focus of attention from the United States when Franklin Roosevelt toured the island, in the role of Assistant Naval Secretary. During this visit, he identified Ceiba as a suitable area for military and naval use. In 1938 and 1939, Roosevelt (now President of the United States) supervised a number of military exercises in the area, and named Admiral William Leahy as the Governor of Puerto Rico.
One of the tasks which Leahy was given was to design a military base for Ceiba, and deal with the legislative procedures needed to acquire the land. This would result in the loss of nearly all of Ceiba’s coastline to the public, along with prime agricultural land. Additionally, 4,000 people were moved from their homes to make space for the new facility. In 1943, construction of Roosevelts Roads began.
Incorporating 8,500 acres of land, along with 26,000 acres on the nearby island of Vieques, Roosevelt Roads was to become to largest US Naval base, and the largest military base, by land mass, in the world. In Ceiba, Roosevelt Roads had more than 100 miles of interior roads and the longest runway in the Caribbean, along with a golf course and many other facilities for military personnel living on the base.
Roosevelt Roads served as a training centre during the Second World War, and some say that the base was intended to serve as a safe harbour for the British Fleet, if they were defeated in Europe. After the war, the base closed and reopened several times, but throughout its history provided an economic boost for the area.
The people of Ceiba, Puerto Rico were thought to be much more positive about the base than their counterparts in Vieques, with many businesses relying on custom from staff from Roosevelt Roads. When Roosevelt Roads was finally closed down on 31 March 2004, 1,300 jobs were lost, along with an annual income of $300 million.
Since the closure of Roosevelt Roads, there has been much discussion as the how Ceiba can best use the land which has been returned to them by the US military. One solution was to open Jose Aponte de la Torre Airport in 2008, offering charter flights, and flights to the nearby islands of Culebra and Vieques. Further plans include property development, and local business people are working to create facilities which will encourage visitors to Puerto Rico to consider Ceiba as a prime tourist destination.
Economy of Ceiba, Puerto Rico
In the early years of Ceiba, the main industries of the area were agricultural, with farms growing sugar, rice, fruit and tobacco. Some iron was also mined in the area. As mentioned previously, the arrival of the US military and the construction of Roosevelt Roads provided a long-term economic boost for the area while it was open. Today, Ceiba, Puerto Rico still supports agriculture and livestock farmers, while several facilities manufacture clothing.
Places to Visit in Ceiba, Puerto Rico
Ceiba, Puerto Rico remains a more peaceful option for visitors than some of the more developed areas on the island. One of the main attractions is the Ceiba Forest, which was designated as a reserve on 20 September 1979. Located between Ceiba and Fajardo, the reserve covers 143 hectares and is made up of 95% mangrove forest, along with reefs, islands and sandy beaches.
The forest provides a natural habitat for a large number of bird species, 10 of which are endemic to Puerto Rico – including the endangered Yellow Shouldered Blackbird. Manatees and sea turtles are also regularly seen feeding off the coastline. Another delight of Ceiba, Puerto Rico is Charco Frio. Fed by Rio Fajardo, the name Charco Frio translated from the Spanish means “Cold Pool”.
The naturally formed swimming holes provide a relaxed setting for barbecues and picnics and attract visitors and locals of all ages. Other points of interest include Los Machos beach, where white sand meets clear, crystal waters, the Ceiba Historic Mural, and the Mayor’s House, where guided tours of the town can be arranged by appointment.
Interesting Facts About Ceiba, Puerto Rico
The average temperature in Ceiba, Puerto Rico is 25ºC, with an average rainfall of 1,312mm. Temperatures are at their highest in July and lowest in February, with most rain falling in September.
Ceiba is named for the Ceiba (Kapok) tree, Ceiba pentandrai, from the Taíno name for the tree. Ceiba trees are recognisable for their large root systems, grey-green trunks covered in vicious looking thorns, white and pink blossoms and enormous height of up to 24 metres. The Taíno saw the Ceiba tree as sacred, and used the wood to make canoes. It is thought that there was once a forest of Ceiba trees in Ceiba, Puerto Rico which at some point in history was chopped down.
The people of Ceiba, Puerto Rico are nicknamed “Las Come Sopas”, which is translated as “The Soup Eaters”. Nobody really knows why they were given this name, one suggestion being that Ceiba didn’t have its own market, so the people ate soup often instead of travelling long distances to buy fresh ingredients. Another story says that Ceibeňos only slaughtered a certain number of cattle each week, and the meat had to be used quickly as there was no means to preserve it, so they made soup.
Ceiba is nicknamed the City of the Marlin.
The official flower of Ceiba, Puerto Rico is the Chupacallos (or Chupagallos) Pleodenron macranthum.Chupacallos is an endemic species which is a flowering evergreen, and endemic to the island.
The flag of Ceiba, Puerto Rico is divided vertically into two halves, the right is red with a yellow cross to represent Christianity, while the left is green. The Coat of Arms is a shield with a Ceiba tree, along with two fleur de lys flowers which represent religion, and the founder of the settlement Luis de la Cruz.
Several festivals take place in Ceiba, including the Marlin Festival, the Fiesta de le Raza (race) and the Patron festival of San Antonio de la Padua in June.
Famous People from Ceiba, Puerto Rico
Some famous people who were born in Ceiba include :
Felisa Rincon de Gautier – a liberal leader who was involved in the foundation of the Popular Democratic Party. She campaigned for the right of women to vote, later holding the position of Mayor of San Juan for 22 years, and winning the Woman of the Americas award in 1954.
Isabel Rosado Morales – born in the neighbourhood of Chupacallos, she was a campaigner for social equality. Her strong beliefs landed her in prison on three occasions, and she was involved in the Nationalist Revolution of 1950.
Carmen E Perez – poet, and author of the town song for Ceiba “Canto a Ceiba”, which honours the beauty of the municipality.