Puerto Rico is known around the world for its beaches, its rum, its international singing sensations… But many a local would argue that it is the coffee that will win you over. Before sugar took over as the island’s main export at the turn of the 20th century, coffee ruled supreme, and Yauco was the capital of java.
Things are not what they used to be, as Puerto Rico is far from being the world’s largest exporter of coffee. But the Yauco Selecto beans are still sought-after the world over, at least making up in quality a demand that far exceeds what the industry can produce. Today Yauco’s economy still depends largely on agriculture, but its crops have diversified to include tobacco, cotton, and tropical fruits. Visitors can hop on a trolley downtown and get to tour around rural areas.
Lago Luchetti, a lake within Yauco’s wildlife refuge, provides opportunities for camping, fishing, and bird watching. Hikers can go up the hills and get a higher up view of the lake, or they might make their way to the lake’s dam and glance down at the steep drop.
Downtown Yauco has managed to preserved many architectural wonders from decades (in some cases centuries) past. These include many houses, some of which are still used as residences while others are open to visitors as historical sites. Among the more famous houses rank Casa Barrera, Casa Muñoz, Mansión Negroni, and the Centro de Arte Alejandro Franceschi. This last one is now an art museum and cultural center. There is also a closed-down movie theater from the 1930s, Teatro Ideal.
Yauco is part of the region that used to be known to the native taínos as Coayuco. It was from this region that the cacique Agüeybaná ruled over all other island chiefs. Another interesting cultural influence in this town is that of the Corsican families who arrived in the 19th century and became instrumental in all aspects of the coffee trade. In fact, by selecting coffee as their main crop, these foreigners’ foresight and luck led them to grow large fortunes. The wave of immigration had come as a result of Spain’s Royal Decree of Graces, by which non-Hispanic Catholics were encouraged to move to Puerto Rico for work. Yaucanos are aware and proud of the Corsican heritage that “made” their town.