Cayey (ka-YAI) is a mountain town in central Puerto Rico located on the Central Mountain range, north of Salinas and Guayama; south of Cidra and Caguas; east of Aibonito and Salinas; and west of San Lorenzo Cayey is spread over 21 wards and Cayey Pueblo (The downtown area and the administrative center of the city).
Cayey is notable for its surrounding mountains. The city has been actively growing since the 1990s, evidenced by its designation as a Metropolitan Area by the U.S. Census Bureau. It has experienced significant growth in commerce, and many major retailers, such as Wal-Mart have opened stores in this city. A new coliseum and hospital facilities have also been built. Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble are two major corporations that have manufacturing facilities in the town. Cayey is host to one of the main campuses of the University of Puerto Rico. The University of Puerto Rico at Cayey is the only liberal arts college in Puerto Rico.
During 1880, a fire that later acquired legendary status happened in Cayey's Mirador Echevarria area. The fire broke out on the property of a timber company near Charca Del Pato. Many people and dogs died, and legend has it that the dogs' barking can still be heard, and sometimes, at night, the screams of the men who burned to death can still be heard too.
During the first half of the 20th century, Cayey was basically an agricultural area of small farmers and local haciendas dedicated to the farming of crops for the local market. During the 1920s and 1930's farmers increasingly lost their land to absentee landowners, mostly American companies, that turned to the cultivation of sugar cane and, to a lesser extent, tobacco for export. In the 1950s and 1960's some manufacturing concerns established plants in Cayey taking advantage of tax incentives offered by "Operation Bootstrap", Puerto Rico's industrialization program. Among the most notable were the "Consolidated Cigars", making cigars, and what was locally known as "Gordon Shire", a textile plant. These plants created hundreds of manufacturing jobs, mostly for women, and created a housing boom. In the 1960s new housing developments, like "Reparto Montellano", provided new housing for Cayey's increasing population outside of the town proper. By that time, however, you could still see vast sugarcane fields in the "Montellano" area of Cayey and the "Central" where the sugarcane was processed. You could likewise see barns dotting the mountainsides where tobacco was hung to dry. In 1967 the University of Puerto Rico opened a campus in Cayey at the old "Henry Barracks", an abandoned WWI U.S Army base. In the early 1970s PR-52 was completed connecting the North and South coastal areas of Puerto Rico and passing through the mountains of Cayey. PR-52, a multi-lane toll highway, rises from the town of Caguas before taking the path of less resistance in the Valley of Cayey, where it ascends further through the mountains before descending to the coastal town of Salinas.