Historians can’t agree on who Juana Díaz was and why this municipality adopted her name. One tradition with clear origins, however, is the celebration of the Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day on January 6th. Although all of Puerto Rico celebrates this day, Juana Díaz has been cited as the standard-bearer, the “City of the Three Kings” that serves as Puerto Rico’s own Bethlehem. The town began celebrating this feast in 1884, and there is even a museum dedicated to its history.
Like many of its neighboring coastal towns to the south, Juana Díaz boasted large sugar plantations during the 19th and early 20th centuries. That crop has been substituted mostly by fruits such as avocados and mangoes. However, the town is famous for the fermented drink of the taínos called mabí, made from the tree of the same name.
The statue at the famous “Plazita” honors one of Puerto Rico’s most vocal advocates for independence, Juana Díaz’s own Luis Lloréns Torres (1876-1944). He was both a modernist writer as well as a politician who lived to see his island pass from Spanish rule to United States control. This plaza is not to be confused with the town square, the more spacious Plaza Román Baldorioty de Castro.
Juana Díaz is often called the City of Poets, as it inspired many of its citizens to take up the pen. Llórens Torres’s beloved part of town was the ward of Collores, represented in his most famous poem, in which he gives voice to a jíbaro who describes its beauty while sadly bidding the town goodbye.
This ward is also the site of the Salto de Collores Waterfall. Other natural wonders include the Guayabal Lake and Dam, where fishing is permitted. A group of independent-minded, active citizens from this municipality are seeking to open up a recreational park and natural reserve at the site of two natural landmarks, the Rocky Forest (Bosque Rocoso) and Caves Hill. The proposed area would include a visitor center, a restaurant, and walking paths, among other amenities. It might also help spawn the next generation of poets.