Being a new resident of Puerto Rico, my husband and I recently hired a guide to take us through the island. We have gone on many day tours with Leo, and on one of these, he drove us through Caguas to show us the town square and tell us about the free—yes, free—museums that are all within easy walking distance of each other.
What we experienced was magical. Our first stop was at the Visitor’s Center. The center is open Mondays-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Please note that the Visitor’s Center and all the museums close from 12 p.m.-1 p.m. for lunch.
The path for the self-guided tour is very simple. The Visitor’s Center has maps and pamphlets of each of the stops and the sidewalks have arrows pointing the way. The museums are all small and each one has a guide to explain the artifacts and history that is displayed.
On the day we went, six of the 12 museums were open. Our first stop was the History Museum of Caguas. Our English-speaking guide walked us through the displays, explaining to us how people migrated here from all parts of the world.
We then walked to the Museo del Tabaco. Here we learned about growing tobacco and how cigars are prepared. These is a small demonstration area where the cigars are rolled.
On the same street was the Museo de Artes Populares, with displays that change. On this day, there was a show of the Three Kings.
I enjoyed the three Jibaro kings the most. When I asked the guide about these particular Three Kings, she pointed out they were Jibaros (a term used to describe people who lived in the heart of the island.) Look closely. One holds a hoe; the middle king has plantains; and the third is carrying a machete.
The art of Edwin Báez is featured in various museums in Caguas. He is a folk and traditional artist who carves figures and scenes in wood. His work is intricate and through his dioramas, I was able to see how Puerto Rico looked during the Taino past and the 1940s to now. He has a new exhibit at the History of Caguas Museum that opened Sept. 23.
Following the arrows on the sidewalk, we walked to the Museo Casa Del Trovador, Luis Miranda “Pico de Oro,” where we learned about Puerto Rico’s favorite instrument, the cuatro string instrument, and how it came to be designed. Our guide educated us about the important singers that helped change the musical style to reflect our island. The guide told interesting stories about the improvised structure of the songs and played some traditional music. We danced out of this museum and walked to the next.
We learned the story of Carlos Manuel Rodríguez when we visited Casa Rosada Museo. His pink house was a typical residence of the middle class in Caguas around the 1940s. He was beatified by the Catholic Church and is up for sainthood, but with only two miracles attributed to him thus far, it may not happen.
I would also like to mention the typical Puerto Rico town square. In Caguas, there is Plaza Santiago Palmer. It is framed by the old Town Hall on one side and a beautiful Catholic church at the other. Take time to walk through it, as it is well kept with a merry-go-round; a huge aviary, where we saw two colorful parrots; a non-functioning clock that reminded us of a sun dial from the past; and kiosks where vendors sold food.