In a way, this post picks up where one of my most impassioned posts left off. While I have some great news and information to share, let me get this off my chest first. If, as Mr. Jose Luis Vega and hundreds of others state, we have the talent to manage the restoration of the Fortin San Jeronimo, why aren't we using that talent to save the seven (yes, there are six more beside the Guánica Lighthouse) that are, according to some lighthouse enthusiasts, in danger of being lost forever?
It enrages me when we selectively choose when to claim our pride about being Puerto Rican. While we consistently claim our patrimony, how can such an obvious part of that patrimony (the beacons of safety for mariners) go so completely ignored and abused? I call upon us all to accept the challenge to take control of this situation and restore, preserve, and honor our patrimony represented in the lighthouses of Puerto Rico.
As part of DóndeEs.com' s commitment to preserve our heritage, we've created a new custom map that includes the locations and information for the 16 lighthouses of Puerto Rico. We hope that it will serve to raise awareness about the plight of lighthouses that are in need of repair and will stimulate interest in those that have been restored and stand as shining examples of our true patrimony.
Although one thing I'll confess right now there are some drastically conflicting information onthe Internet on the status and condition of the lighthouses, so the information contained here is a compilation, but bound to be somewhat incomplete. I hope to personally try to visit most of these in 2008 and verify for myself the state of this irreplaceable pieces of our history.
Lighthouses of Puerto Rico
The first lighthouse made in Puerto Rico was atop El Morro in 1846. In 1869 a proposal was approved that would establish 14 other lighthouses to create what was known as the "Plan of marine lighting system". This plan is documented in a nice graphic (provided at left, fyi, larger image if clicked on) will illustrates how each of the lighthouses would provide 360 degree coverage of Puerto Rico and provide protection for captains no matter what direction they approached. In the end, 16 lighthouses were built, with most of them finished between 1886 and 1900.
The lighthouses which are open to visit on a daily basis and easily accessible are (if you follow the link to the custom map, switch to Satellite mode and zoom in close for a excellent view of all of these lighthouses):
- Punta Morrillo, Arecibo (1898)
- Punta Higuero, Rincón (Restored 1922)
- El Morro, San Juan (1846)
- Cabo San Juan, Fajardo (1880)
- Los Morrillos, Cabo Rojo (1882)
- Punta de las Figuras, Arroyo (1893)
- Punta Mulas, Vieques (1896)
According to the article ("The Doomsday Lighthouses of Puerto Rico", Lighthouse Digest of February 2002) written by the Lighthouse People, Bob and Sandra Shanklin, there are eight lighthouses which are in grave danger of being lost completely and forever. Doesn't that word shock anyone else, forever. Luckily, one which they list as endangered, Punta de las Figuras in Arroyo, has been restored and is part of the Centros Vacacionales at Punta Guilarte, which is managed by the Compañia de Parques Nacionales. In what follows, is our hall of shame, the six lighthouses still in desparate need of our loving care and attention (status summarized from article):
- Faro de Isla Culebrita, Culebrita (1886) - This lighthouse was heavily damaged in Hurricane Georges. Most of the actual light part of the light house was lost, but the walls still seem strong.
- Puerto Ferro, Vieques (1896) - According to photographs and accounts by the Lighthouse People, this lighthouse is "in very bad shape". While at one time caught up in the Vieques bombing range controversy, it seems that this structure is indeed quite endangered.
- Caja de Muertos, Ponce (1887) - Although not in very good shape, Caja de Muertos Lighthouse was in the best condition of any we consider belonging on the "Doomsday List." The lantern room was rusty and in terrible shape, with no original lens, just a plastic optic.
- Faro de Guanica, Guanica (1893) -As I mentioned before, I saw first hand the sad shape of the Guanica Lighthouse. It is in terrible shape, much the same as Culebrita and Point Figuras. Walls standing and the tower, with piles of rubble inside, and only a part of the lantern room remaining. A photograph of the current shape of this lighthouse is available here.
- Isla Mona, Mayagüez (1900) - The lighthouse on Mona Island is abandoned, and there are several modern beacons to take its place. This lighthouse is the only metal tower lighthouse in Puerto Rico. We have heard that the man who built the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel himself, designed it. It is in terrible shape, and most likely will not be restored or stabilized due to its remote location.
- Los Morrillos, Cabo Rojo (1882) - While this lighthouse was listed in bad shape in 2002 in the article, the municipality of Cabo Rojo restored it again and now looks like the leading photograph at the top of the post, which was from May 2007 and it looks like it is in pretty good shape.