Located across the bay from San Juan, the municipality of Cataño is appropriately called The Vestibule of the Capital, or in Spanish, “La Antesala de la Capital.” Since its relatively recent founding in 1927, a great part of Cataño has been industrial. Many company headquarters and manufacturing plants making this their home along the more than 30,000 inhabitants. However, the area was settled and named early on during the Spanish conquest. Sometime during the 1560s, the governor of the island bequeathed the land to his physician, Hernando de Cataño, as a gift for his life-saving services.
Every half-hour a ferry leaves from San Juan to Cataño and back. This ferry system is known by locals all over the island as “la Lancha de Cataño.” The rocky beaches of Isla de Cabra, in nearby Toa Baja, are favoured by fishing aficionados. Within its shores one can spot a small fort built in 1610, Fortín San Juan de la Cruz, or El Cañuelo. During the annual patron saint’s festival in July in honor of Nuestra Señora del Carmen, catañenses also hold the Cruce a Nado de la Bahía, a swim across the bay over to San Juan (participation not compulsory).
Most Puerto Rican families have made at least one trip to Cataño, and that trip most likely involved a visit to the Bacardí Rum Distillery. Interested parties can tour the plant to learn about the process of making rum, from fermentation to bottling. There’s also information on the history of the company, originally founded in Cuba by a Catalán immigrant, Don Facundo Bacardí Massó.
Around the town one can find remnants of the sugarcane trains connecting the fields to distillery. Christmastime is an especially busy and popular time to visit the grounds. Feria Bacardí, a week long affair, sparks the holiday spirit with traditional food, fun activities for the whole family, and music from famous recording artists.