By 1662, there were several farmers who had settled on the plains on the Portugués riverside, part of the jurisdiction of Coamo. The region was also on the left bank of the Jacaguas River, the natural boundary between the Puerto Rico and San Germán districts (partidos). Eight years later, the settlers already had an 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. dedicated to Our Lady of Guadeloupe, so that they could attend mass without having to travel to San Germán or Coamo. At the time, the small village, which was to become the city of Ponce, depended in civil and religious matters on the chartered city of San Germán.
By the mid-18th century, the town had more than 5,000 residents and 115 dwellings. In 1778, when the chartered city of Coamo was created, Ponce was placed under that city for civil and religious purposes, but remained as one of the seven military centers of the island. This action allowed Ponce to organize and deploy more than three hundred militiamen to assist in the defense of the capital at San Juan during the British attack of 1797. By 1831, the town was comprised of Bayas al Norte, Bayas al Sur, Bejuco Blanco, Bucané y Rábanos, Canas, Canas y Magueyes, Caños y Pámpano, Capitanejo, Coto de los Laureles, Machuelo Abajo, Machuelo y Bayagán, Marueño, Matojal, Pastillo, Playas Quemado, Ponce Pueblo, Real y Guano, Sabanetas, San Antón, and Tibes Portugués wards. On July 29, 1848, Queen Isabella II bestowed on Ponce the title of chartered city in "Royal gratitude for the industriousness and loyalty of its residents." In 1877, Ponce was granted the title of city.
During the course of the 19th century, Ponce became the principal center of economic, cultural, and intellectual progress in the region. The flourishing economy was led by a foreign-born landowning class, who used slavery to transform the fertile lands of Ponce into the agricultural center of the island. An example of this economic development was the Ponce Exhibition Fair in 1882, where the latest agricultural and industrial advances were exhibited. On July 15 of that year the first train line between Ponce and Yauco was inaugurated. Seven years later, on January 14, 1899, permits were granted for an electric trolley system.
In the cultural sphere, music, the theater, the operaopera: A dramatic work in which a text is sung and staged, accompanied by an orchestra. The form originated in Italy in the 17th century during the Renaissance., literary movements, and the press found fertile ground in Ponce. The first local newspaper, El Ponceño, began to circulate on July 10, 1852. The paper was published and edited by Felipe Conde, Benito Villardell, and Augusto Pasarell-Mills, and was printed in the shop were the newspaper La Democracia was first printed in 1880. These publications laid the groundwork for Ponce's journalistic tradition. Other cultural advances included the construction of the La Perla Theater in 1864, at the initiative of Francisco Parra and Pedro Garriga. The theater was inaugurated by the Segarra and Argente Company, with a play, La campana de Almudaina. The organization know as Gabinete de Lectura, or readers’ circle, was founded in 1870, and was considered one of the most progressive of the civic centers of the island. The Gabinete was a library, a lecture hall, an archeological museum, a meeting place for intellectuals, and the place where the generation of liberal journalists of the 1880s was formed: Luis Muñoz Rivera, Baldorioty de Castro, José Ramón Abad, Mario Braschi, and Ramón Marín.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Ponce showed signs of having developed a regional way of life and a certain political independence, which is still the pride of the Ponceños of today. The distinguished humanists Eugenio María de Hostos, Román Baldorioty de Castro, Federico Degetau, and Rosendo Matienzo-Cintrón all lived in Ponce. Other liberal activists included Ramón Marín-Solá, Heraclio Tirado, and Francisco Javier Amy. The Autonomist Party was founded in Ponce in 1887, under the presidency of Román Baldorioty de Castro. In September of 1898, Eugenio María de Hostos, returned from New York, where he had founded the Puerto Rican Patriots’ League. Historians have said that it was in Ponce where Hostos began his political activities and that it was the Ponce city government that was the first to appoint its representatives, along with Peñuelas, Adjuntas, and Juana Díaz, to create the Puerto Rico Commission. Subsequently, doctors Manuel Zeno-Gandía, Julio Henna, and Rafael del Valle also joined the commission.
During the course of the 20th century Ponce continued to develop in all spheres. By the 1970s, the municipality's economy was based on sugar cane, coffee, and produce. The most important products were sugar-cane based (sugar and rum), gasoline, and fish-based products. The region became highly industrialized, with almost 200 companies, including the Serrallés distillery, the Puerto Rico Iron Works, and the Puerto Rico Cement Corporation. The economy was also stimulated by banking institutions such as Banco de Crédito y Ahorro Ponceño, Banco de Ponce, the Banco Popular, First Federal and Loan Association, and the Housing Bank.
The Ponce flag is divided into two equal triangles, similar to the coat of arms. The upper triangle is red, and the lower is black. The red is a symbol of fire and fortitude. The black represents the night, repentance, prudence, and modesty. The flag bears the coat of arms at the center.
Coat of arms
The shield of the Ponce coat of arms is divided into two triangles. The upper is red, symbolizing fire and fortitude– and the lower is black, alluding to the night, repentance, prudence, and modesty. The coat of arms bears a gold lion with a black mane. The lion is facing left and standing on a bridge. The water flowing under the bridge represents the two rivers that cross the city.
Intertwining sugar canes and coffee branches, representing what were at one time the most important crops of the city, surround the shield. The shield is crowned by a turreted castle, symbolizing Ponce’s status as a city, granted by King Alfonso XII in 1877.
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