Monument to El Jibaro
The hardworking pioneers (farmers, wood craftsman, hunters) are hardly ever honored for their contribution to a nation. These poor country-folk (Jíbaro in Puerto Rican Spanish) lived simple lives, working the land, and caring for their families with what little they had. They were the backbone of every society.
But in Cayey, on a prominent place along the main highway, there is a beautiful statue honoring the Puerto Rican Jíbaro. This monument, called Monumento al Jíbaro Puertorriqueño, was sculpted by Tomás Batista.
While today most Puerto Ricans work in officies and enjoy the finer things in life, the Jíbaro made a lasting impression in the Puerto Rican culture. You can see the Jíbaro influence of simple farm-living all around modern-day Puerto Rico.
Traditional celebrations, such as each town’s Patron Saint festivals (Fiestas Patronales), the adapted musical instruments (cow bell, guiro), and much of the "local" food (simple seasonings, many root vegetables … even pasteles) of the culture have Jíbaro roots. Even the tools — many people still use a machete for everyday yard maintenance. We have even seen oxen teams working the slippery, rocky slopes of El Yunque farms.
The spirit of the Jíbaro of the past is still alive today in what their values and traditions mean to today’s Puerto Ricans. This statue is a monument to that strong Puerto Rican spirit.
While I would not make a special trip to see the monument, if you are traveling from the north coast to the south coast through the center of the island on Route 52, it is just along the way.
The drive down Route 52 is an easy one, and it is very beautiful to see the changes in vegetation as you climb up and over the central mountain range (the Cordillera Central) — the north side is lush and green, while the south side is dry and scrubby with cactus.
The monument is located on Route 52 between KM 47 & 49 on the southbound side. It is situated so that you can easily see it from the road, and there is a parking area (called a rest area, but there are no facilities) so you can safely pull off the highway, park and walk up to the statue.
As an extra bonus, the two mountains that some people say look like breasts (locally called Las Tetas de Cayey) can be seen from this parking lot / statue area! Seriously … we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried!
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