VIEQUES

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Isla de Vieques, is an islandmunicipality of Puerto Rico, it lies about 8 miles east of the main island municipality of Fajardo and is part of an island grouping sometimes known as the Spanish Virgin Islands. Vieques like the rest of Puerto Rico, retains strong influences from 400 years of Spanish ownership.

The island's name is a Spanish spelling of a Native American Taíno word Bieque, said to mean "small island". It also has the nickname "Isla Nena", usually translated from the Spanish as "Little Girl Island", alluding to its perception as Puerto Rico's little sister. During the colonial period, the British name was "Crab Island".

The most important the pre-Columbian findings were in La Hueca where artifacts were made in amethyst, agate, turquoise and jadeite. The most remarkable were shaped like South American condors. The Indians inhabiting the Island when Columbus arrived in 1493 were Tainos. In the early colonial days of Vieques, two brave Cacique brothers, Cacimar and Yaureibo, lead separate revolts against the Spaniards. They were soon defeated and killed. What was left of the Indian population was reduced to slavery and taken to Puerto Rico.

The Spaniards began to colonize Vieques during the first half of the 19th century. In 1843 the municipality was established and construction of the Fort was begun. At this time Vieques was independent from Puerto Rico. During the second half of the 19th century, Vieques saw a great economic boom driven by the sugar fields. The workers were very impoverished and worked under very harsh conditions. After the general strike of 1915, working conditions improved greatly in the sugar industry. Black slaves were brought in from the neighboring British islands. The sugar mills in operation were Playa Grande, Santa Maria, Puerto Real, Esperanza and their names were eventually adopted for naming the barrio. In1898, after the Spanish American War, sugar milling continued in making a few families rich while most of the population worked the sugar fields.

For the past sixty years the majority of Vieques was closed off by the US Navy, and the island remained almost entirely undeveloped for tourism. This lack of development is now marketed as a key attraction. Vieques is promoted under an ecotourism banner as a sleepy, unspoiled island of rural "old world" charm and pristine deserted beaches, and is rapidly becoming a popular destination.  Snorkeling is excellent, especially at Bahía de la Chiva. Aside from archeological sites, such as La Hueca, and deserted beaches,  Vieques is also famous for its feral horses, which roam free over parts of the island. These  descend from stock originally brought by European colonizers.

East End Doings will visit some Vieques Landmarks and places of interest in February:

  • Hacienda Playa Grande (Old Sugarcane Plantation Building)
  • Fortín Conde de Mirasol (Count Mirasol Fort), a fort built by the Spanish in the mid 19th century, now a museum
  • The tomb of Le Guillou, the town founder, in Isabel Segunda
  • La Casa Alcaldía (City Hall)
  • Faro Punta Mulas, built in 1896
  • Faro de Puerto Ferro
  • The 300-year-old ceiba tree
  • Rompeolas (Mosquito Pier), renamed Puerto de la Liberdad David Sanes Rodríguez in 2003
  • Puerto Ferro Archaeological Site
  • Black Sand Beach