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NOTES FROM THE FORT MUSEUM

Notes on Vieques Archaeology
Notes on Vieques Architecture
Notes on Vieques Historic Process

Notes on Vieques Archaeology

The Vieques' indigenous cultures room is named in honor of the island's last chiefs, the brothers Cacimar and Yaureibo. These two "taíno" (Arawak) chiefs led a series of defensive raids against Spanish positions on the east coast of Puerto Rico in 1514. In that same year a Spanish naval expedition destroyed Vieques' "taíno" population. Ample archaeological evidence suggests several different cultural groups have lived on the island during the past four thousand years.

The archaeological material in the first two showcases is representative of several different cultural groups that lived in Vieques between 500 and 2,000 years ago. The artefacts belong to two local collectors, Mario Solis and Pablo Delerme.

Vieques is one of the most important archaeological areas in the Carribean in this past half century. Since 1978, the Center for Archaeological Investigation at the University of Puerto Rico has conducted important excavations here.

La Hueca and Sorcé, just west of Esperanza, were sites of significant indigenous activity. Cultural material, including clay artefacts, stone and shell tools and weapons and a particularly impressive array of corporal adornments made of a variety of local resources as well as "imported" semi-precious stones, make up a treasure of Vieques' Indian artefacts currently under analysis at the UPR laboratories.

The stone artefacts - tools, weapons and religious materiales - in the second and third showcases are from various "taíno" (Arawak) sites on the main island of Puerto Rico.

The silkscreens on the final panels of this room are from the annual Indigenous Festival held in the town of Jayuya in the central mountain range of Puerto Rico.

Notes on Vieques Historic Architecture

The architecture of Vieques reflects the historic processes of the Island's social, cultural and economic development since the mid 19th century. The principal historic monuments of Vieques and places of historic interest include: Fort Count Mirasol (Fortín Conde de Mirasol), built between 1845 and 1855; the Puerto Mulas Lighthouse (1896) overlooking the dock at Isabel Segunda; Puerto Ferro Lighthouse (1896) inside Camp García on the south coast; the Frenchman's House (La Casa del Francés) built in Esperanza at the turn of this century by the French sugar planter don Víctor Mourraille; the tombs of Teophile Le Guillou, the "Founder" of Vieques, in Santa María, adjacent to the ruins of the Santa María sugar mill; ruins of the Playa Grande sugar central inside Navy's west end base (NAF); and the old cemetery in town. Several of these pieces of Vieques historic-architectural patrimony are on the Federal Register of Historic Places and the Puerto Rican Institute of Cultures Register of Historic Monuments. A recently completed study of Vieques historic-architectural resources of Vieques carried out with the help of the State Office for Historic Preservation in Puerto Rico resulted in the nomination of thirteen new sites and the compilation of new documentation and materials for our museum. The presence and influence of French landowners during colonization; the growth and development of Vieques' sugar economy, from slave days to the industrialization in the post-abolition years; an increasing commercial sector, serving the needs of the local population, the sugar "haciendas", and with significant connections in the nearby Danish Virgin Islands; a continuing influx of black, English speaking workers from the British Leeward Islands and wealthy British and Danish merchants from neighboring areas; and the greater interaction with Puerto Rico during the twentieth century, are all significant elements of Vieques' history, documented in the nineteenth and twentieth century rural settlements, in the urban economical development of Isabel Segunda and in the architectural expression of residential, industrial and commercial buildings throughout the Island of Vieques.

Notes on Vieques Historic Process

This room is named in honor of Teophile Jacques Joseph Marie Le Guillou, first Military and Political Governor of the Spanish Isle of Vieques (1832-1843). The Taíno and Spanish weapons are replicas produced by Puerto Rican and Iberian artisans. The flags in the room represent the diverse European influence in Vieques' history: British, Danish, French, Spanish. The Venezuelan flag honors the visit of Simón Bolívar, Great Liberator of the Américas, to Vieques in 1816. The single star flag of Puerto Rico and the flag of Vieques (blue, white and green with the Fort in the center) are at the end of the room. The sugar industry was the lifeblood of Vieques' economy for more a century. From the date of the official establishment of the Spanish colony of Vieques (1844) until the military expropiation of the Playa Grande sugar mill (1941), dozens of sugar plantations and later, four large scale sugar factories helped create a prosperous economy. Hundreds of French planters, from the islands of Guadalupe and Martinique, moved to Vieques, with permission from the Spanish government, early in the nineteenth century. They brought hundreds of African slaves, who, together with English-speaking free workers from the British Virgin Islands and creole Puerto Rican workers, contributed to Vieques' social and economic development. Thousands of workers were brought in from St. Thomas, Saint Croix, St. Kitts-Nevis, Antigua, Tortola and from several towns in southeast Puerto Rico, to work the sugar fields, central factories, railroads, docks and other elements of Vieques' sugar industry. In the first two decades of the 20th century four sugar mills - Esperanza, Santa María, Arkadia and Playa Grande - ground thousands of tons of sugar cane. By 1940, only the Playa Grande, the largest and most productive mill, remained. Early in that decade the U.S. Navy began a process of expropriations that led to Navy ownership of 72% of Vieques territory in 1949. The arrival of the Navy put the last nail in the coffin of an already dying sugar industry. Navy control of 2/3 of the island's natural resources and several attempts by the military to take over all of Vieques, contribute to the socio-economic crisis that plagues the Island to this day.

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