Want to know a bit more about Vieques? Here’s a brief timeline to whet the appetite of the history buff in you.

Known as Bieke to the Taínos, Crab Island to the English, and Isla Nena to our residents, Vieques has a vast and unforgettable history.  The following timeline is a partial list of important events that have shaped our evolving narrative.

2145 BCE

Archeological findings in Puerto Ferro date back to Pre-Arawak period.

1100 CE

Taino culture abounds in Esperanza.

1493

Columbus lands on the south side of Borinquen (now Puerto Rico) and claims it for Spain.

1508

Ponce de León initiates colonization of Puerto Rico.

1514

Taíno Chiefs Yaureibo and Cacimar from Bieke fight Spanish forces on the east side of Puerto Rico.

1683

British settlers from Anguilla invade Vieques. Danish forces from St. Thomas drive invaders away.

1698

Scottish settlers from Nevis, Anguilla and Tortola invade Vieques. Spanish forces drive invaders away.

1718

British settlers from Anguilla come to Vieques to
establish a colony on two different occasions. Both times Spanish forces drive invaders away.

1811

The Spanish colonization of Vieques begins.

1815

Royal Decree of Graces allows other Europeans who swear loyalty to the Spanish Crown to remain in Puerto Rico. French settlers develop Vieques’
agrarian economy.

1816

Simón Bolivar, Latin America’s Great Liberator, comes to Vieques.

1822

The Spanish commence construction of a town,
eventually called Punta Mulas (Isabel II today), on the north side of the island.

1832

Teófilo José Jaime María Le Guillou, a French emigre, is appointed military governor of Vieques.

1844

The municipality of Vieques is formally established; construction of original Catholic Church gets underway.

1845

Construction of Fortín Conde de Mirasol (the Fort) begins.

1863

Britain formally renounces all claims to Vieques.

1873

Abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico (March 22, 1873); Manuel E. Benitez is elected Vieques’ first mayor when municipalities are extended the right to vote.

1893

All Saints Church is officially consecrated. Vieques and Ponce were the first places in Puerto Rico under Spanish Monarchy allowed to set up non-Catholic churches.

1896

Punta Mulas lighthouse (north side) is completed.

1898

Spanish-American War.  Treaty of Paris gives United States temporary control of Cuba and ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine islands.

1899

Puerto Ferro lighthouse (south side) is completed.

1917

Jones Act grants United States Citizenship
to all Puerto Ricans.

1925

On March 19, a powerful earthquake causes major
structural damages to the Puerto Ferro lighthouse.
The lighthouse is closed.

1941-49

The United States Navy expropriates nearly two thirds of Vieques for military maneuvers.

1948

Luis Muñoz Marín becomes 1st democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico.

1950

Operation Portrex, the largest and most realistic military wargames of its day, is held on Vieques.

1952

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is established on July 25.

1961

The film Lord of the Flies is shot in Vieques.

1965

Osvaldo “Val” Gonzalez-Duriex provides air
transportation to Vieques and registers his enterprise as Vieques Air Link.

1976

Water from El Yunque (Puerto Rico’s rain forest) via underwater pipeline becomes the main water supply for Vieques.

1977 – 1988

“Vieques Pony Express”— Ventura Camacho Dávila is hired by the post office to initiate island-wide delivery of mail. For the next 11 years, Ventura Camacho does his job on horseback.

1978

“Fishermen’s War”:  An international NATO backed training military exercise on Vieques is stopped by fishermen who position themselves in the direct line of fire.

1989

Hugo, since upgraded to a
category 5 hurricane,
devastates Vieques.

1991

Restoration of Fortín Conde de Mirasol is completed.

1999

David Sanes is killed by a bomb from U.S. Navy military exercises. The tragic death serves as the catalyst for a peace protest that galvanizes all of Puerto Rico.  The ‘Paz Para Vieques’ movement garners international support and becomes instrumental in pressuring the United States Navy to end military  exercises on the island.

2001

Vieques National Wildlife
Refuge is established (3,100 acres on the western end
of Vieques).

2003

U.S. Navy leaves Vieques; 14,573 acres of land on the east end are added to the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is operated under the U.S. Department of Interior and becomes the largest wildlife refuge in the Caribbean.

2005

U.S. Congress designates parts of Vieques as a Superfund.

2006

Montessori Education arrives in Vieques; Guinness World Records names Mosquito Bay the brightest
Bio-bay in the world; MANTA, the educational outreach program of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust (VCHT) wins EPA’s highest award two years
in a row.

2007

Comunidad Verde Vieques is established.
This is the first re-settlement inside former
NAVY land.

2009

First Bio-luminescent Symposium in Puerto Rico is held in Vieques and hosted by the VCHT.

2011

White House report issued by the Vieques Task Force recommends military clean-up, a solid waste strategy, health care, renewable energy, protection of the BioBay and “green” tourism.

2012

Vieques Concert Society (VCS), in partnership with Jorge Camacho, starts the Vieques Rondalla.

JUNTOS begins Humane Education in schools.

2013

Radio Vieques (90.1 FM) begins transmitting.

2016

VCHT signs an agreement with the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to co-manage the Mosquito nature reserve.

To learn more about Vieques history visit El Fortín Conde Mirasol, the last Spanish fort built in the Americas in the mid-1800s. Now celebrating its 25th year, this art and history museum is a an art and history museum, this historic landmark is host to live music, art shows and is also home to our local radio station Radio Vieques 90.1 fm and its show Better Together (Tues./Thur. at 7 p.m.). Freshly coated in historic colors, enter to see archeological artifacts, indigenous culture and local art on display.  Director Robert Rabin with a host of volunteers keep it all running. Don’t miss their 39th annual big-stage cultural festival of music, dance, arts and crafts, and amazing food! Checkout the www.viequesinsider.com calendar of events for details.

 

About The Author

Kelly Thompson
editor • publisher • designer

Kelly’s background in graphic design and photography led her to creative jobs all over the U.S., Australia and Europe. She moved to Vieques in 2003 and started publishing the Vieques Insider magazine in 2014 allowing her to share her love of the island through photos and stories.

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2 Responses

  1. gary

    Hi Kelly.
    We are returning for the second winter season. Wanting to know if Vieques is a popular pace to visit for three kings day? or is the celebration better in Ponce?

    Reply
    • Kelly Thompson
      Kelly Thompson

      Hi Gary,
      Vieques is very busy at that time of the year. I’m not familiar with what they do in Ponce. Things get pretty booked up so if you are planning for this year, it would be good to rent a car right away. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me!

      Reply

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