The Hispanic Caribbean territories of the 19th century were a collective powder keg of political and ideological tensions, paving the way for the Spanish-American War in 1898. One of the key historical moments that exposed the instability of Spain’s control happened in the municipality of Lares.
El Grito de Lares took place on September 23, 1868 (a “grito” literally means a scream). On the appointed date, around 1,000 rebels took over the town of Lares and declared the birth of the Republic of Puerto Rico. Spain did decide to grant more autonomy to the island, most notably abolishing slavery years later in 1873. Lares is still considered the birthplace of Puerto Rican Nationalism. Despite the island’s continued status of economic and political dependence, it’s interesting to note that the date of this revolutionary event was declared a national holiday.
Lares keeps making history, with its famous, professional volleyball team, the Lares Patriots, as well as its long line of beauty queens, including the recent Miss Universe Denise Quiñones (2001). Internationally-acclaimed singer José Feliciano was born in Lares as well.
Closed-down coffee hacienda ruins permeate the landscape in Lares, although some fields are still used for growing coffee beans. Many visitors to Lares remark about the sense of history that permeates every step around town. Visitors can find the quaint Museo de Lares, with its displays about its history of before and after the revolt. The Plaza de la Revolución at the center of town features an obelisk that commemorates the rebels’ effort and a beautiful mosaic map of the island. Right across the plaza is the popular Heladería Lares. Founded in 1968 by “Yinyo,” this artisanal ice cream shop is known for wacky flavors including garlic, rice and beans, and sweet potato, as well as more standard fare like dulce de leche, chocolate, or vanilla.