Visitors to the municipality of Jayuya will surely relish its tranquil location in the middle of the Cordillera Central, bordering the northern edge of the Toro Negro Forest Reserve. Tucked-away in the mountains, this municipality has been able to preserve many remnants of the native taíno culture.
Although the taíno population was quickly decimated upon the arrival of the Spanish explorers, locals here proudly continue to honor the civilization’s traditions. This is why Jayuya is dubbed “La Capital Indígena” (or, The Indigenous Capital). In November, jayuyanos celebrate a festival in honor of the taínos.
Visitors can get a glimpse of taíno culture year-round at La Piedra Escrita. Its name refers to the etchings on the stone’s surface still visible to this day. For an even wilder trip back in time, there’s El Cemí Museum. The word cemí is an umbrella term for the earthly representations of taíno gods, which often took the form of carved objects in a somewhat triangular shape. The museum does not just house an artifact collection, but the out-of-this-world building is actually built in the shape of one of these curious cemíes.
As it turns out jayuyanos are still known for their carving skills. Jayuya’s artisans specialize in sculpting wood into all kinds of objects, including saints and religious scenes.
This town is also the birthplace of Puerto Rico’s distinguished politician/writer of the early 20th century, Nemesio Canales. A statue of Canales by famed sculptor Tomás Batista can be found in the Plaza de Recreo. There is also a historical museum named for another famous Canales, the founder of the town, Don Rosario Canales Quintero. His house, now called Casa Canales, was first built as part of a coffee hacienda during Jayuya’s heyday as a major producer of java. Other local haciendas have been reborn as paradores, or family-owned inns, like Gripiñas and Casa Taína.
Jayuya’s lush green scenery makes the case for preserving the Puerto Rico’s natural beauty along with its cultural heritage. The hard-to-miss Los Tres Picachos -at 3,952 feet above sea level one of the island’s highest mountains- looms over the countryside and is deemed its protector.