Utuado is a municipality of Puerto Rico located in the central/western mountainous region of the island known as La Cordillera Central. It is located north of Adjuntas and Ponce; south of Hatillo and Arecibo; east of Lares; and west of Ciales and Jayuya. In land area it is the third largest municipality in Puerto Rico (after Arecibo and Ponce). According to the 2000 US Census the city has a population of 35,336 spread over 24 wards and Utuado Pueblo (the downtown area and the administrative center of the city). The name Utuado derives from the Taíno word "otoao", meaning "between mountains."
Areas in the Utuado region that were exploited for gold include Salto Arriba, initially, then later in the 1530s Caguana and Don Alonso. In the 1530s, landowners in the Don Alonso area petitioned the Spanish Crown permission to establish a town in the area but it was never granted.
Once the gold mining era ends toward the end of the 1500s, very little is known about the Utuado region until the early 1700s. According to the Puerto Rican historian Fernando Picó, the few documents that exist indicate the area was mostly unpopulated and densely forested. On the other hand, he states the fact that Utuado is the municipality with the most caves, that most likely served as dwellings for Indians or runaway slaves.
The agreement to establish the town of Utuado by the 60 families of Arecibo states they purchased the "Hato de Otoao" for 569 pesos and 5 reales from owners Manuel Natal and Felipa Román. It also states their desire to choose where on the land the Town Center would be located, which indicates the area was not populated yet.
During his visit to the island in 1771, Fray Iñigo Abbad y Lasierra states the principal economic activity in the Utuado region was cattle raising, horses and mules. He mentions a small amount of agricultural activity existed but the population only produced enough tobacco and coffee for their own consumption.
During the late 1700s and early 1800s Utuado's population continued to grow as coffee gained in importance and growers saw the need for high altitudes and mountainous terrain to produce the best coffee beans. People not only migrated from the Puerto Rican coastal towns but also from the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands of Majorca and Minorca, all seeking the riches that coffee had to offer.
During the late 1800s Utuado experienced an explosive economic growth centered around the cultivation of coffee, also known at the time as oro negro or "black gold." By the 1890s Utuado was the largest producer of coffee in Puerto Rico and the second municipality (after Ponce) with the largest population. It produced a rich social lifestyle for many of its citizens and a casino and theatre were established in the town. The progress of the town was so evident that the regent Queen of Spain, María Cristina, honored the town with the title of Ciudad (City) on August 20, 1894. In 1896 or 1897 Utuado was the first city in Puerto Rico with a public electric lighting system powered by a hydraulic turbine power plant, and in that same year mayor Juan Casellas was planning a train system to unite Utuado with Arecibo. By 1899 this golden era came to a screeching halt due to two very important events that had a lasting negative effect on the city's economy. The first event was the United States occupation of the island in 1898, which made sugar the new crop of importance instead of coffee. Utuado's mountainous landscape was not ideal for growing sugarcane, making it impossible for it to compete in the sugar industry on a significant level. The second event and the one to have the most profound impact was Hurricane San Ciriaco in 1899, which literally wiped out the coffee haciendas.
Valle bendito el de mi Otoao,
mundo de verde, de azul y sol,
tierra del pitirre y del guaraguao,
cáliz y altar de mi amor.
Es de mi patria su corazón.
Es fiel guardián de su tradición.
Es el perenne y firme bastión
del alma de mi país.
Utuado, amado Utuado,
¿Como no has de estar en mí
si creció mi alma en tus campos
y mis sueños acunó el Viví?
Si algún día de ti me alejo
o si calla al fin mi voz
dejo como eterna ofrenda a ti
hecho canción mi amor.
Utuado has regained some of its coffee producing power and was the 3rd largest coffee producer in Puerto Rico in the 2002 USDA Agricultural Census. It also produces oranges (ranked 4th), plantains (ranked 6th) and bananas (ranked 9th). It has also been successful with livestock inventory ranking 3rd with hives of bees and 13th with pigs. Industrially, Utuado counts with a few companies that produce textiles, paper and stone.
With narrow streets leading up to a central plaza surrounded by a church and the governor's house, Utuado Pueblo is a perfect example of a town built during the Spanish Colonial era of Puerto Rico. The Iglesia San Miguel Arcangel, the local Catholic parrish, was founded in 1746. The current double-steepled church was built between 1872 and 1878 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, along with the Caguana Ceremonial Park and the Blanco Bridge or "Puente Blanco" located in barrio Arenas joining Utuado with Adjuntas. Other buildings in Utuado Pueblo that retain their colonial architectural features include The Center for Art, Culture and Tourism in the old Tobacco Coop building, the old hospital "Hospital Catalina Figueras and Teatro San Miguel, among others (for pictures of these and other buildings see photo gallery below).
The Rio Abajo Forest Reserve (Bosque Estatal Rio Abajo) is a forest reserve shared with Arecibo and home to 223 plants and wildlife species including: native silk-cotton trees, Asian teaks, Dominican and Honduran mahogany and Australian pines. It is also home to a captive population of the critically endangered Puerto Rican Amazon.
East of the Rio Abajo Forest Reserve is Lago Dos Bocas, one of several man made lakes in Utuado. From El Embarcadero, near routes 123 and 146, boats take guests around the water to one of the many restaurants for lakeside dining.
Lago Caonillas in the western region of Utuado is another man made lake. This reservoir encompasses over and was constructed in 1948 by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. People seeking a great mountain getaway with breath-taking views of the lake can stay in the several hotels in the area including Casa Grande Mountain Retreat and Hostal Villas del Lago.
Barrio Angeles Fiesta - April
The Agricultural Technology department of the University of Puerto Rico at Utuado hosts an annual festival, Festival Tierra Adentro, featuring arts and crafts by local artisans, music, food and plant and animal exhibitions. This festival is held in early April.
Guarionex Fiestas - April
'Feria Artesanal de Angeles is an annual arts & crafts fair held in early May in barrio Angeles featuring local artisans, music and food.
Cross Rosary - May
Festival Cultural del Otoao is an annual event held in the beginning of December celebrating Utuado's Taino heritage. It features arts & crafts, concerts, food and dance and takes place in the central plaza "Plaza del Recreo" in Utuado Pueblo.
The annual Patron Saint Festival is held towards the end of September to early October. The town's patron saint, San Miguel Arcangel, is honored with processions, music, and in 2005 featured amateur boxing matches, softball and domino games. It is held in Utuado Pueblo's central plaza, "Plaza de Recreo."
Festival Nacional Del BBQ en Utuado... Originated by Locals Samuel Kanig & Ramon G. Garcia