Founded in 1736 the Guayama region takes its name from the taíno language, in which it literally means “large place.” Although sugar cane was cultivated in these parts as far back as the 16th century, it was at the end of the 19th century that the sugar industry charged full-steam ahead. This vast municipality used to be the island’s sugar capital. While some remnants of the industry –sugar mills, hacienda buildings— litter the landscape as ruins, Guayama’s prominence now stems from its many other charms.
The Cautiño house, for one, is a testament to the wealth of Puerto Rico’s sugar barons. A mix of neo-Classical and creole styles, the house’s ornate exterior mirrors the impressive collection of fine housewares found inside. Built in 1887 as the home of the Cautiño family, it is now a museum and cultural center open to visitors.
Also in downtown Guayama lies what is by all appearances a relic: the late 1930s, art deco style Guayama Theater (formerly named the Calimano). The cinema continues to show movies with its coal-fired projector. There’s only one nightly showing at this single-screen theater, but no one can beat the $3.50 admission price and the experience of watching a film in one of the last surviving theatres of its kind in the Caribbean.
A stroll by the Plaza de Recreo Cristóbal Colón proves enchanting due to its beautiful gardens. It is here also that the town honors one of its sons, poet Luis Palés Matos, with a commanding statue. Palés Matos is credited as a major voice in bringing to light the influence of African cultures in the Caribbean.
One cannot forget Guayama’s natural beauty. The town features many attractions for the ecotourist. There are several protected areas, like the Jobos Bay Reserve, shared with the municipality of Salinas, ans well as the forests of Aguirre and Carite. These reserves are home to diverse wildlife, including endangered species of marine turtles and pelicans.
Whether one gets a chance to hit the beaches by day or not, Playa Pozuelos boasts the perfect spot for a late afternoon snack of pastelillos. They come in a wide variety of fillings at La Casa de los Pastelillos… including shark!