Museo De Historia y Arte De Carolina”…
“Come See The Story ”


Museo de Historia y Arte Facade

Museo de His­to­ria y Arte (Click on image to see it larger.)

Across the San Fer­nan­do Square from the “Museo de los Gigantes”, and right in front of the San Fer­nan­do Church, where Rober­to Clemente and Vera Zabala got mar­ried back on Novem­ber 14, 1964, is the “Museo de His­to­ria y Arte de Car­oli­na”. That’s the Car­oli­na Muse­um of His­to­ry and Art.

At first glance it would seem strange to com­bine these two gen­res, but no oth­er medi­um presents his­to­ry in a clear­er and suc­cinct man­ner than art. It’s a graph­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the actu­al events as they unfold­ed. So what more could you ask for?

The muse­um tells the sto­ry of this “town of giants” from its very foun­da­tion, back on Jan­u­ary 31, 1857, to the present day. And one would expect that, being that the muse­um is sup­posed to be all about Car­oli­na. But what you wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly expect is that it frames it inside the big­ger pic­ture of the his­to­ry of Puer­to Rico.

The “Museo de Tec­nología y Arte” is part of the Car­oli­na Cul­tur­al Dis­trict, which also includes the “Galería de los Gigantes” (across the San Fer­nan­do square), Casa Escuté (to its west side), the “Museo del Car­tel y la Grá­fi­ca Puer­tor­riqueña” (Muse­um of the Puer­to Rican Poster and Graph­ics, on the sec­ond lev­el of Casa Escuté) and “El Museo del Niño” (the children’s muse­um, at a sep­a­rate location).

The “Museo De His­to­ria y Arte De Car­oli­na” opened its doors in 2012 at a total­ly refur­bished two storey build­ing that was once a dilap­i­dat­ed halfway house. Your art expe­ri­ence starts from the minute you set foot on the side­walk, where there are two lumi­nous exhi­bi­tions: one about “vio­lence against women” and the oth­er about the “Puer­to Rican Dias­po­ra”. The building’s facade is also a piece of art in itself.

Our guide, Raquel Upia

Our guide, Raquel Upia (click on image to see it larger)

Upon enter­ing the muse­um my wife and I met with our guide Raquel Upia, who pro­ceed­ed to show us one of the most spec­tac­u­lar pieces in the entire muse­um. It’s called: “Mapa De Car­oli­na” and it’s a two-storey-high mod­ern sculp­ture show­ing the 13 wards that make up the town­ship of Car­oli­na as well as 10 busts of its most illus­tri­ous cit­i­zens. The piece is made of bronze, stain­less steel and glass.

One of the neg­a­tive cri­tiques that most muse­ums receive is that they’re full of “dead stuff”. In the minds of many peo­ple “if it’s in a muse­um it has to be dead”. But not here!!! In fact this muse­um has some of the most mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy around, includ­ing 360° exhibits and holo­graph­ic presentations.

Mapa de Carolina

Mapa de Car­oli­na (click on image to see it larger)

From the “Mapa De Car­oli­na” we went on to the “Sala Mat­ices“ (or the “hue room”, if that makes any sense) where we learned all about the town of Car­oli­na and what it has to offer. Did you know that Car­oli­na is like a mini rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the larg­er island of Puer­to Rico. It has every­thing: forests, marine reserves, even a bio­lu­minis­cent lagoon! Hell, I lived in Car­oli­na for 39 years and I didn’t know half of what I learned in a cou­ple of hours at the “Museo de His­to­ria y Arte”.

Then we met “the man” him­self. Well, sort of. Leav­ing the “Sala Mat­ices” theres a huge stat­ue of “San Fer­nan­do”, hon­or­ing king Fer­di­nand III (the Saint), the only Span­ish king to ever be can­on­ized. And yes, he’s the patron saint of the city of Car­oli­na. That’s why it’s actu­al­ly called “San Fer­nan­do de la Car­oli­na” (more on that in a minute).

Besides being a mag­nif­i­cent piece, carved by Puer­to Rican sculp­tor Omar Ortiz, the stat­ue of San Fer­nan­do is heap­ing with lit­tle morsels of infor­ma­tion about the actu­al man’s life. Just walk around it and you’ll dis­cov­er his birth date, when he was crowned, how many chil­dren he had, his code of arms, the fact that he was a musi­cian and much much more. At first it isn’t obvi­ous but its all there.

Then there’s the holo­graph­ic exhi­bi­tion. Wat an orig­i­nal way to tell the sto­ry of the town of Car­oli­na. It’s like a two-per­son play between half vis­i­ble peo­ple. The images come and go before your eyes and keep you glued to the sto­ry at all times. It was great!!!

And this was only the first floor…

After a short ele­va­tor ride we arrived at a glass win­dow that offers a great view of the Old Town Hall, the “Museo de los Gigantes”, “Casa Escuté”, the San Fenan­do Square and the San Fer­nan­do Church. From there we went on to the “sala reli­giosa” (reli­gious room) where you can see the most impor­tant piece of reli­gious art in Puer­to Rico, and pos­si­bly of the Americas.

Cristo de los Ponce

Click on image to see it larger.

It’s the “Cristo de los Ponce”, a poly­chrome fig­ure com­mis­sioned by Juan Ponce de León him­self in Spain and shipped to Puer­to Rico in 1513 aboard the “Bue­naven­tu­ra”, a Span­ish tall ship that sunk in on its way here. Poly­chrome is a form of art prac­ticed for cen­turies in the Seville area.

Well, the thing is that some­how the fig­ure found its way to the coast of Puer­to Rico and even­tu­al­ly it was deliv­ered to the Ponce fam­i­ly. After that it was placed in San José Church in Old San Juan.

Fast for­ward sev­er­al cen­turies to 1872. The San Fer­nan­do Church in Car­oli­na had been fin­ished and the San José Church in Old San Juan was chang­ing hands from the Domini­can to the Fran­cis­can order. They were also redo­ing the altar and the “old Christ” had been moved to Calle Cristo to install a “new Christ” at San José. Church.

Juan José de Machicote, who was the May­or of Car­oli­na, and also the Parish Priest, wrote a let­ter to the Fran­cis­cans request­ing that the “old Cristo” be moved to Car­oli­na. Since then “El Cristo de los Ponce” has had a per­ma­nent home in Car­oli­na. The glass urn in which he rests was built sep­a­rate­ly by the peo­ple of Carolina.

Cristo de los Ponce

Click on image to see it larger.

Remem­ber, Juan Ponce de León was the first gov­er­nor of Puer­to Rico. He also found­ed Old San Juan in 1851, the third old­est city in Amer­i­ca after San­to Domin­go de Guzmán (1496) and La Havana (1515). So there’s a great deal of his­to­ry attached to this figure.

Then we arrived at the “Sala de His­to­ria” (the his­to­ry room) where —you guessed it— the entire his­to­ry of Car­oli­na (and in many cas­es Puer­to Rico) is pre­sent­ed using al sorts of media. And it starts way before the white man, with the ear­ly Archa­ic, Arawak and Taíno set­tlers, and goes all the way to present day fig­ures. It’s all there for you to learn and enjoy.

Then there’s the “Sala de Arte” (the art room) where once again the his­to­ry of Car­oli­na comes alive before you very eyes through paint­ings by Marí Curt, Tufinno, Marín and Cecil­ia Orta. There’s even a “post mortem” mask of Luis Muñoz Marín cre­at­ed by Omar Ortiz. Remem­ber him? He was the Puer­to Rican sculp­tor that cre­at­ed the Stat­ue of San Fer­nan­do that you saw upon enter­ing the building.

It’s all there. If you want to become an expert on the his­to­ry of Car­oli­na all you have to do is vis­it the “Museo de His­to­ria y Arte” and the “Galería de los Gigantes” across the square. Each one will take you about two hours. And if you com­bine them with Casa Escuté (just a few steps to the west of the “Museo de His­to­ria y Arte” you’ll have a cul­tur­al expe­ri­ence like no other.

Celestino Ortiz Nieves

Celesti­no Ortiz Nieves (click on image to see it larger)

Oh, and one last thing… On our way out of the muse­um we met with Mr. Celesti­no Ortiz Nieves. Who’s he? Well, he’s the museum’s muse­ol­o­gist and res­i­dent artist and he was gra­cious enough to give my wife a mini course on paint­ing. And that some­thing that you can do as well when you vis­it the “Museo De His­to­ria y Arte De Car­oli­na”. You’ll get to make your own lit­tle piece of art and take it home with you!!!

On the way out there’s a small cafe where you can relax and enjoy gen­uine Puer­to Rican cof­fee and pas­tries, as well a gift shop where you’ll find that per­fect sou­venir for the folks back home.

The muse­um has excel­lent guides (my wife and I can attest to that) that con­duct tours both in Span­ish and Eng­lish. For more infor­ma­tion call the Car­oli­na Depart­ment of Tourism and Cul­ture at 787–757-2626, ext 3903 and 3946.

Final­ly, If you liked this page, and you plan to vis­it Puer­to Rico —and the town of Car­oli­na— in the near future, you’ll find ample infor­ma­tion on this web­site. You can also book flights, hotels & car rentals at great prices through the wid­gets on the right hand column.

And yes, they are affil­i­ate links. That means that I make a small com­mis­sion, while you pay exact­ly the same that you’d pay any­where else. That way you get to return the favor with­out spend­ing an extra dime.

Enjoy Puer­to Rico,

Orlando Mergal | Puerto Rico By GPS

©2023,Orlando Mer­gal, MA

Bilin­gual Con­tent Cre­ator, Blog­ger, Pod­cast­er,
Author, Pho­tog­ra­ph­er and New Media Expert
Tel. 787–750-0000, Mobile 787–306-1590


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