Manatí was founded in 1738 by Pedro Menéndez de Valdés. It was the ninth settlement to be officially recognized by the Spanish Crown in
Documents show that in 1729 Bishop Sebastián Lorenzo Pizarro visited the region and observed that a hermitagehermitage: A generally small sanctuary erected in sparsely settled areas to serve distant and nearby residents, although the main purpose was to ensure that far-flung settlers could fulfill their religious obligations. The construction of a hermitage was authorized for settlements that were more than six leagues from a center or on estancias and hatos with more than 30 residents. had been erected on the banks of the Manatí river, in honor of Our Lady of Candlemas. By 1733, the population had increased significantly and Governorgovernor: in the Spanish colonies, the governor was the figure immediately beneath the viceroy in political and legal affairs. Like the alcaldes mayores, the governors could not be vecinos, encomenderos or owners of land or mines in the jurisdiction. When the title was added to that of Captain General, the position also implied the highest military authority. Governorships were applied to sparsely populated colonies or frontier zones. Puerto Rico was a frontier zone. Matías de Abadía, who had named Pedro Menéndez de Valdés lieutenant of the Manatí riverbank, granted him a caballería, which in
Finally, the town was officially founded in June of 1738, in the Manatí Abajo ward of
In 1786, the town was destroyed by a large earthquake, but the residents quickly rebuilt it. In 1831, according to Pedro Tomás de Córdoba, the municipality included Bajura, Coto and Arenas Blancas, Cuchillas, Llanadas and Garrochales, Manatí Abajo, Palmas Altas, Río Arriba, Sabana Hoyos, Tierras Nuevas, and Yeguada wards. By the mid-19th century, Yeguada and Cuchillas wards had disappeared, and Punta and Boca wards were created. In 1878, Ubeda and Delgado do not mention Llanadas and Sabana Hoyos wards, but do mention the new ward of
In economic terms, in 1853, the town changed from mining to agriculture. Sugar cane became the principal crop, and there were twelve mills in operation. There were also five pottery shops, three barrel-making shops, and two carpenter shops. By then, there were 280 dwellings in Manati constructed of rubble and brick or wood, over two thousand straw bohíos, two plazas, eight streets, and a school with fifty students. The town population grew and the economy developed throughout the 20th century, and in July of 1994, Manati was designated a city. The town coat of arms was changed from showing three towers to showing five towers, a characteristic of a city coats of arms. Since then, the town became known as the metropolis. The city leaders have devoted significant effort to acquire cutting edge technology for the residents. On March 5, 1998, Manatí made history by launching Atenas Internet, the first Internet provider managed by a municipality.
In the cultural arena, in the early 20th century, Manatí was given the nickname of the "Athens of Puerto Rico" because of its extraordinary level of cultural and artistic activity. According to Villar Roces, Manatí outshone "most of the other municipalities, and because of the celebrity of its floral games, which were better even than those that were held in the principal cities of the island." (p. 197). The appellation is also due to the salons that were held on the terrace of the Spanish social club known as the Casino Español, "... which counted among its participants the most exquisite poets and brilliant men of letters such as José de Jesús Esteves, Enrique Zorrilla, Clemente Ramírez de Arellano, Angel M. Villamil, Cándido Alvarado, Luis Antonio Miranda, and Juan R. Parés." Many prominent intellectuals also came from
The town is also known as being one of the places on the island where the "wakes of the Cross" were held, a custom that originated in a remote era in the south of
The Manatí flag has three horizontal stripes, the uppermost is white, the middle band is red and the bottom stripe is blue. The central band is narrower than the other two. The colors are those of the coat of arms of the founder of the town, Pedro Menénedez de Valdés.
Coat of Arms
The coat of arms is divided into four quarters by two intersecting lines in the shape of a cross. The first and third quarters bear a Greek temple, the Parthenon, a reference to Mananti`s appellation as the "Athens of Puerto Rico". The second and fourth quarters bear a manatee, representing the name of the city. A small shield at the center has flames, symbolizing the bonfires that are traditionally lit during the festival to honor the patroness of the city, Our Lady of Candlemas.
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