Puerto Rico, Land of Coffee
The General Archive of Puerto Rico is hosting an exposition entitled "Coffee in Puerto Rico: Its recovery and transformations" from March 5-31 featuring posters, assorted equipment used to process coffee beans over the past three centuries and a collection of paper bags with brand names of the product from 1930 to the present.
Among the interesting objects on display in two halls on the ground floor of the historic building is a bicentennial fountain, three sizes of containers used to sell coffee, along with sacks and engravings by the late artist Rafael Tufiño devoted to coffee.
In addition, the exposition features an antique strainer used to prepare the beverage, two small grinders, as well as documents from coffee plantations that exported their products, including those of the Mayol Brothers in Puerto Rico, two of which made the island's product known abroad.
"The Mayol brothers were the ones who started to make the island famous, since their coffee was the one that popes and kings drank," collector Jorge Capielo, the director of the Puerto Rican Culture Institute's Cultural Promotion and Popular Arts Program, told EFE.
"The reality is that the coffee drunk by the pope was from Puerto Rico, but we don't know the exact brand. The name that made Puerto Rico famous was Yauco," said Capielo regarding the mountainous municipality in the southwestern part of the island.
The exposition will also include at least 90 of the thousands of different paper bags for packaging coffee from 1930 to the present day collected by Jose Molina, the author of the book "Riqueza cafetalera en Puerto Rico a traves de sus marcas y empaques" (Coffee-growing wealth in Puerto Rico through its brands and packaging").
Capielo, 42, said that the exhibit came about because coffee has been a key crop for Puerto Rico since the mid-18th century due to the mountainous part of the island's fertile soil, temperature, humidity and lack of pollution.
In a pamphlet published by Jorge E. Saldaña in 1935 entitled "El Cafe en Puerto Rico" (Coffee in Puerto Rico), which tells the history of the crop on the island, and is also on display at the exhibit, the author writes that "Coffee (plants were) imported to Puerto Rico from Santo Domingo in the year 1736," having first been brought from the island of Martinique.
The fame of Puerto Rican coffee expanded internationally when the island was a Spanish colony. In Barcelona, mythical grocery La Portorriqueña sells Puerto Rican roasted coffee since 1902, when a Catalan "Indiano" came back from the Americas after making money in the plantations.
Despite its coffee-growing history, however, Puerto Rico nowadays produces just 30 percent of the coffee sold on the island, the rest being imported.