Cradled between some of the highest peaks on the island, ADJUNTAS is a remarkably traditional rural community, a million miles from urban Puerto Rico. It sits on one of the island’s primary north–south arteries, PR-10, 50km south of Arecibo and 30km north of Ponce, but with the highway now bypassing the town, its torpid centre seems frozen in the 1950s, with none of the strip malls and fast-food outlets that grace most Puerto Rican towns – for now. It’s also known as La Ciudad del Gigante Dormido (“the city of the sleeping giant”) after the ridge of mountains on its western side, which vaguely resemble the outline of a giant, lying face up. The town is perhaps best known in Puerto Rico today as the home of one of the island’s most successful conservation movements, Casa Pueblo. This local organization waged a long but eventually successful campaign against local open-mining of copper and gold deposits, and is today at the forefront of the Puerto Rican environmental movement. Adjuntas lies just off the Ruta Panorámica, around 32km from the heart of the Toro Negro.
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The most compelling reason to stop in Adjuntas lies 200m south of the plaza on PR-123, at c/Rodolfo González 30 – an innovative cultural and environmental centre known as Casa Pueblo (787/829-4842, www.casapueblo.org). The arresting pink criollo-style house was purchased in 1985 by a group of environmentalists that had already been protesting the development of local open-air copper mining for five years – the mining posed a catastrophic threat to the local ecosystem. It took fifteen years of campaigning, but in 1995 the government passed a bill prohibiting open-air mining in Puerto Rico, and by the following year the land formerly threatened by the mine was turned into a small reserve, the Bosque del Pueblo. Founder Alexis Massol-González received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2002 on behalf of the group, and today Casa Pueblo supports sustainable development and conservation projects all over the island, also conducting a number of toxicity studies on Vieques.
The main house acts as a performance centre and art space, with a small shop selling local arts and crafts, coffee beans grown by the project (Café Madre Isla), T-shirts and books. Most of the wall space is dedicated to charting the group’s history and environmental campaigns through photographs and various media coverage. At the back is a small Mariposario (butterfly house) and garden, where caterpillars are reared on lettuce leaves. The whole place is powered by solar energy.
Once the largest exporter of citron in the world, R&A de Jong (t787/829-2610), founded by Dutchman Andries de Jong in the 1960s, is now dedicated solely to the production of Café Bello, a high-quality coffee. Their plant is just north of town at PR-123 km 36.6 – you can stop to buy coffee and take a tour of the premises, but it’s best to call in advance if you can.
You can also buy gourmet coffee at Hacienda Patricia (t787/813-1878), home of the Segarra family’s sun-dried and wood fire-roasted Arabica beans. The plantation that was established in 1900, right on the Ruta Panorámica (PR-143 km 6.6, about 11km before Adjuntas – on the left just after the junction with PR-140). You can usually try their product in a small café on site.