Plaza de Las Delicias
Plaza de Las Delicias (bounded by Calles Isabel, Atocha, Union, and Simon Bolívar) is a bustling Spanish colonial plaza surrounded by many lovely 19th-century buildings, many of them containing banks, but there are also a couple of bars and lots of fast-food joints. Although it looks like one large plaza, Plaza de Las Delicias is in fact composed of two smaller plazas: Plaza Degetau and Plaza Luis Muñoz Rivera. Together they create what appears to be the central gathering spot for all of Ponce, especially on the weekends.
During the day the sidewalks along Calle Isabel and Calle Atocha are lined with dozens of brightly colored umbrellas, under which vendors sell hot dogs, silk flowers, lottery tickets, gift wrap by the yard, electronics, sneakers, jewelry, and more. At night, live bands give concerts, attracting multigenerational families, troupes of preening teenagers, and love-struck couples who stake out cuddling corners on park benches.
The plaza contains two enormous fountains, including the elaborate Fuentes de Leones (Fountain of Lions). This is also where you’ll find the stunning Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (787/842-0134, office Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–1:30 p.m., services Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 12:05 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m.), a gorgeous French neoclassical–style edifice reconstructed in the 1930s and featuring two bell towers, stone tile floors, and a sky-high arched ceiling painted a robin’s-egg blue and hung with 20 crystal chandeliers. Check out the stunning religious statuary, including one of Mary dressed in a pale blue robe with a gold halo above her head, and the bloodied body of Christ in a glass coffin.
But by far the most exceptional structure in Plaza de Las Delicias is Parque de Bombas (787/284-3338 or 787/284-4141, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., free), a startlingly whimsical black-and-red-striped pavilion built in 1882 to provide exhibition space for the Exposition-Fair of Ponce. A year later it became home to the city’s fire station. Today it is a museum honoring the history of the city’s firefighters. It contains portraits of past fire chiefs, exhibits of fire helmets, hats, axes, and hose nozzles, and it also serves as the tourism office for the city. Lots of travel brochures on sights in the area and an interactive electronic display board provide directions and hours of operation for many of the city’s sights.
Hanging around Plaza de Las Delicias at night is probably not a good idea, if the armed police in bulletproof jackets who patrol it after dark are any indication.
© Suzanne Van Atten from Moon Puerto Rico, 2nd Edition