Lares is considered the birthplace of Puerto Rican nationalism because it played a much-revered role in Puerto Rico’s independence movement. On September 23, 1868, about 500 Puerto Ricans organized a revolt against Spanish rule in the town of Lares. Local stores and offices owned by Spanish merchants were looted, slaves were declared free, and city hall was stormed. For one day, Lares was free of foreign control for the first time since the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
The revolt was quickly squelched the next day, when rebel forces attempted to take over a neighboring town. The revolutionaries, including leaders Manuel Rojas and Juan Rius Rivera, were taken prisoner, found guilty of treason and sedition, and sentenced to death. But to ease the political tension that was brewing on the island at that time, the revolutionaries were eventually released. Although the revolt, referred to as Grito de Lares, was ultimately unsuccessful, it did result in Spain giving the island more autonomy, and September 23 has become a national holiday.
Today Lares is best known for its production of Alto Grande coffee, a highly prized variety held on par with Jamaica’s Blue Mountain and Hawaii’s Kona coffees. And on its central plaza is a unique ice-cream shop that folks travel far and wide to visit.
© Suzanne Van Atten from Moon Puerto Rico, 2nd Edition