Coamo, PR – The Aged Village

The municipality of Coamo is curiously known for its thermal waters. The area called Baños de Coamo has attracted many visitors over the years – some out of curiousity, others seeking health benefits from the natural hot springs. There is evidence that the taíno natives had discovered and used the springs before being driven out by Spaniards. By early 19th century, however, development in the area led to the formation of a series of pools, which the springs then filled, forming the hot baths. And so was born Puerto Rico’s first spa!

Travelers these days can stay at an inn, known here as “parador,” to enjoy the baths. The area these days is ripe for a face-lift, but originally it was the site for luxurious facilities, damaged at the turn of the century in the Battle of Coamo against United States forces (during the Spanish-American War).

Spain colonized the area early on, building one of their earliest settlements on the island here in 1570. Thus, Coamo has many beautiful historical structures still on display, earning it the nickname of “La Villa Añeja” (or, the Aged Village). Among these are: Casa Alcaldía, with its famous clock; Antiguo Casino, now a cultural center; Museo Histórico, with exhibits about the history of Coamo; and the Puentes Españoles, two Spanish-built bridges dating from the late 19th century.

One of the oldest buildings in Coamo is the San Blás de Illesca Catholic Church, which started construction in 1563, making it the third church built in the island. Coamo’s renowned marathon -the longest in the island at 13.1 miles- also carries the name of the saint. The town’s fiestas patronales, however, are in honor of La Virgen de la Candelaria (Our Lady of Candlemass).

Legendary singer/songwriter Bobby Capó was born in Coamo in 1922. The ballad “Piel Canela” is his best-known song, but Capó’s long career was full of hits that continue to be sung by proud Puerto Ricans and covered by international artists. While in exile in New York City, he composed songs that expressed his longing for his native soil. One need only travel to the Mount Picó lookout point and peer down at the Coamo Valley to know why.

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