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April 22, 2005
Over in the western Porta del Sol, in a valley at the left end of Puerto Ricos Central Mountain Range, flanked by peaks Canta Gallo, Gordo and Pichón, lies the lesser known town of Añasco. It is called the "Town Where the Gods Came to Die," because here, in 1511, Taíno indians finally realized that the Spanish were not immortal as once thought, a revelation that sparked Puerto Ricos first crushed revolution.
This they did by drowning (and immediately asking for forgiveness, lest the "god" awaken in furor) the unsuspecting Diego Salcedo, a Spanish soldier that had been a guest of Urayoán, The Elder, chief of Yagüeka (the region now covering Añasco and Mayagüez). After three days of dancing and much witnessing by several caciques of the decomposing mortal body by the river, the Taíno revolution, led by Borikéns supreme chief, Agüeybaná, broke into full swing across the island. We all know who won that one
To commemorate this pivotal act, there is a bronze statue depicting the historical homicide in the towns main plaza. Añasco is also called "The Town of the Puff Pastry," but the former surname is certainly much more riveting necromantic I should add.
Once a key hub of the west, Añasco has lost none of its charm. Añasqueños saw the first hospital in Puerto Rico rise up in 1510 and bore witness to the last person to be hung on the island in 1908, José Morales, a.k.a. Yare Yare. (A popular case that signaled the end of the death penalty in Puerto Rico.) It was also the site where the real Perico got run over by the train, subject of a very popular "plena" by Ismael y Cortijo, "Quítate de la via Perico." It boasts a huge plaza, beautiful beaches and a stunning parrish whose patron is none other than the great San Antonio Abad, the Egyptian who gave it all up and gave it to the poor. Whats more, the family who came up with the famous "Chicharrón de Bayamón" (Yes, the celebrated "Bayamón Pork Rind") was originally from Añasco. The town even spawned tough-girl reggaetón artist Ivy Queen.
Añasco is a beautiful town indeed. Stroll the towns center during the wee hours of the morning, maybe go to mass, then drive by the many ruins and sites, hit the beach by one or two in the afternoon, and then come back for a nice fried "chillo" with "mofongo."
So, without much ado, here are the most popular places to go to discover the quiet allure of Añasco.
Tres Hermanos Public Beach (Soon to re-open)
PR-401, Km 1.0
A wide public beach with camping facilities, cafeteria, basketball court, trailer areas and picnic tables. Offers emergency services and plenty of stunning sunsets Porta del Sol is known for. There are several inexpensive accommodations nearby, some are right on the beach.
Villa Pesquera (Fishing Village)
PR-401, Km 1.5
Near Tres Hermanos Beach, here is where the local fishermen sell their fresh fare. Heres where youll get the best and juicy "chipe" clams the town is known for. The Chipe Festival takes place here every year in October, celebrating these unique mollusks. Plus you can see the fishermen set off or simply unravel their nets, if thats your ticket.
Rio Grande de Añasco Estuary
PR-401, Near the End
Once a conch gathering place for the Taínos, it was used by Christopher Columbus to replenish his fresh water reserves. Near here is where the village of Urayoán, the cacique who first received the Spanish, was. Juan Ponce de León founded the first Christian settlement, El Higuey, in 1506, before Caparra, in this area. They have found cannons, gold coins and plenty of archeological finds in this area, thats why its called the River of the Discovery.
Jose Adolfo Pesante Plaza
65th Infantry St.
Peppered by robust bay leaf trees is the sixth biggest plaza on the island. It used to be bigger, yet still boasts Spanish cannons from the 16th century, a statue of the Spanish conquistador being drowned by Taínos, and the resting places of Grito de Lares hero Doña Mariana Bracetti Cuevas, a.ka. "Brazos de Oro", and her son, Jose Adolfo Pesante, the murdered mayor whose name the square now carries. It is the heart of old Añasco.
San Antonio Abad Parrish
The original church was built in 1765 and was replaced by the current structure in 1801. The façade is one of the grandest on the island, featuring a beautiful stained glass window 8 feet in diameter. Recently remodeled, it now has two more bells to chime. Inside is one of the oldest Virgen de la Providencia, patron of Puerto Rico, statues on the island.
19th century homes
The facades on these houses are as they were at the last turn of the century. The most popular are that of the Arrillaga, Garcia de Quevedo and Castillo Méndez families. Surrounding the towns main square.
La Taberna & Salas Steak House
58 65th Infantry St.
Owner Ino D. Castillo "Iko" is waiting to serve you. A nice, family-oriented place to eat, serving up your local "criollo" fare. Also flanking the main plaza.
Museo de las Antigüedades
23 Padre Bennassar St.
A family-owned antiques store in a well-kept turn-of-the-century residence where God knows what relic youll find, right in front of the towns main plaza.
El Castillo Amusement Park
PR-109, Urbanización Jardines de Daguey
Featuring the biggest wave pool in the Caribbean, this is the top choice of kids all over. There are two small pools, lifeguards, picnic tables, tennis and basketball courts, walking trails, swing sets and a full-blown playground. Theres even an antique museum and a medieval castle for adults and a haunted house for the not so wee.
Mirador La Bahía
PR-115, Caguabo Ward
Lookout tower where you can gaze at the sheer beauty of the Añasco Bay all the way to Mayagüez. Stop by for a quick snack or just to center yourself before going further.
El Salto de la Encantada
PR-402, Marias Ward
Recently built inland recreational complex with waterfalls, lush greenness, lots of different-sized gazebos for activities, volleyball and basketball courts and plenty of bridges that connect the gazebos with one another. Alleged site of a Taíno legend where princess Humata died of lovesick causes. A very lush, damp place where the river flows. Perfect for celebrating birthdays, just bring your own goodies and friends.
Rincón Beach Resort
Although the name says Rincón, its actually in Añasco. The complex is Mediterranean in flavor, featuring some of the best dining in the west at their Brasas Restaurant. The resort has an annual Wine & Food Festival that is to die for and doles out special offers almost all year long. The view of the Almirante Bay is incredible, so is the service and the many water-related adventures they can muster up for you.
Getting to Añasco:
From San Juan: Get on the Autopista, Expressway PR-52 East, this will turn into PR-2 once you pass Arecibo. Stay on it. Get off on PR-109.
From Rincón: Hop on PR-115 South, cross PR-2, and get on PR-109.
From Aguadilla: Head south on PR-2 and then make a left at the intersection of PR-109.
Añasco Tourism Office
Ask for Ricky Lopez
Call these guys for more information on the towns trolley tour, especially if youre going with a group.
Brenda A. Mari is an editor/reporter for The San Juan Star, an accomplished web copywriter and a fan of everything unusual. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org