Cemi Museum – A Window to the Past

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Cemi Museum

The town of Jayuya seems to be loaded with the traces of the ancient Taino Indian culture. It could be because the Tainos, and other indigenous cultures in Puerto Rico, appeared to have a preference of living and/or gathering together for ceremonies in the mountains in the central part of the island.

The Cemi Museum (Museo El Cemi, in Spanish) in Jayuya is a visitor center for the area and a showcase of Taino artifacts. Archaeological digs and large rocks with shapes carved into them (petroglyphs) prove that pre-Columbian cultures lived in this area. The leaders of Jayuya wanted to preserve and educate about the Taino culture, so they opened this odd-shaped museum in 1989.

What is a Cemi?

According to Taino tradition, a cemi is a god, spirit or ancestor. It is also the name given to the religious symbol that is the physical representation of a god. The most common shape for cemis in Puerto Rico is a form with three "points" carved in stone or wood. These idols have carved representations of both humans and animals.

The scholars who study this culture are not sure if the shape of the cemi was meant to mimic the shape of the nearby mountain range (Tres Picachos), but is sure looks similar.

The Museum

Cemi Museum

The building that houses the museum is itself in the shape of a cemi. The museum is small, but it is nice. It has pieces of pottery, some tools and other artifacts from daily Taino life. There is a mural with examples of the petroglyphs that have been attributed to the Tainos and other indigenous cultures. Those petroglyphs have been found on rocks and caves all around the island, including Jayuya, Arecibo and Las Piedras.

The signs and informational placards in the museum are in both Spanish and English. The first thing to see at the museum is a video (about 20 minutes) of all the things the town of Jayuya has to offer. There is no audio track, but it does have subtitles (only in Spanish). The video helps you know what to look for during your visit to Jayuya.

After the video, you’re free to wander through the museum — which takes all of 10 minutes.

What Else is Nearby?

Casa Canales located adjacent to the Cemi Museum. Dona Juana Waterfall is about 15 minutes away. Not far up the road is the Hacienda Coffee, that offers tours on Friday – Sunday. Piedra Escrita (which is a big rock covered with petroglyphs in the middle of the river) is a short drive away. It is possible to make a day out of exploring the area in and around Jayuya.

If you do head to this area, keep in mind that the roads are mountainous and twisty, so plan accordingly so you can get back to "flat ground" before sunset.


Admission costs $2.00/adult, $1 for kids which inclused admission to this museum and the Casa Canales.

The museum is open 7 days/week from 9am – 4:00pm (closed from 12:00-1 for lunch and no admission after 3:45pm).

Allow about 30 minutes to view the museum.

You can call 787-828-1241 or 787-828-4618 for more information.

Check their Facebook page

There are clean restroom available in the buildings behind the police station (across the parking lot from the museum).

Driving directions: From Route 149, turn left on Route 144 and take it to KM 9.3 (or so). You will see the Cemi Museum and police station from road.

We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ...

PuertoRicoDayTrips.com assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

There are 3 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

Thank you so much for this information. I use to spend my summers in Saliente. My grandma, Rubiela & grandpa, Norberto use to live there. My grandfather was a policeman for Jayuya and he use to go in there alll the time. As a kid I hated it but now, I feel so honored to have been there as much as I was.

Comment by Arangelys Torres on 02 Aug 2020

While the museum is indeed small, and while you won't need much time to tour the entire facility, it is definitely worth the time and effort to get there. We drove there from Ponce, where we lived for two years, one afternoon, and it took about an hour to get there. Once finished with the museum, take time to explore the downtown area, as it is very unique and pretty. Find the town square and view the Taino inlay in the center of town. Also, climb the stairs that you see nearby to view a Taino burial site. Also, stop in for some delicious coffee at Hacienda San Pedro. There are two stories (upstairs, downstairs), so check out the facility, too. Great way to spend a day and learning about Puerto Rican culture.

Comment by Dewey Lawhon on 20 May 2016

My husband & I stopped here April last year. It is a nice, small museum. We also visited Museo Casa Canales which is close by. That was a very informing stop for us. We learned about the 1950 Jayuya Uprising, something that we certainly never learned about in our history classes in the mainland US. Piedra Escrita is also close by. We also stopped at Hacienda San Pedro for a visit and coffee. We were staying in Utuado. If you are interested in indigenous history, you can also visit Centro Ceremonial Indigena de Caguana in Utuado and Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center just north of Ponce.

Comment by Jeri Waltrip on 05 Feb 2012

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