• Horacio E Velazquez

San Sebastían, Puerto Rico

Located in the northwestern region of the island, south of Isabela, Quebradillas and Camuy; north of Las Marías; east of Moca and Añasco; and west of Lares. San Sebastián is spread over twenty-four barrios and San Sebastián Pueblo (the downtown area and the administrative center of the city). It is a principal city of the Aguadilla-Isabela-San Sebastián Metropolitan Statistical Area.


The permission to found the town was officially granted in 1752, under the leadship of the founder, Captain Cristóbal González de la Cruz, who among other residents had an interest in converting some cow farms into an agricultural village. The foundation of the town from the religious aspect, was consummated in December 1762 by Mariano Martin, the island catholic bishop at that time. At the beginning, by 1700, San Sebastián was a conglomerate of a few cow farms, owned by some residents of the Partido de Aguada. Las Vegas was the former plain site of one of the first cow farms located by the Guatemala riverside at the north. Also, another of those cow farms was Pepinito (today's downtown) that was a prominent hill with a white calcium carbonate face. On the north side of the town it can be seen some of this pepinos (cucumbers). These two cow farms gave the town its first name. From these geographical features come the first names of the new village: Las Vegas del Pepino (Cucumber Fields). In 1865 it is documented as San Sebastián de Las Vegas del Pepino.

At the beginning of the 19th century, wealthy Spanish families arrived in El Pepino, fleeing the revolutions of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Later, by 1850, several families from Catalonia and the Basque Country in Spain joined the large number of isleños (Canary Islanders) that had made El Pepino their home. These people, after taking over the local political power, developed a coffee industry and brought some material progress to the town. Basques in the municipality, in remembrance of their home region and its religious patron, saw the need of updating old traditions used by the Canary Islanders and started to call the town San Sebastián, and thus got the name formally changed by the central government authority. Nevertheless, the citizens of San Sebastián are popularly called pepinianos.

San Sebastián Mártir (Spanish for Saint Sebastian the Martyr) is the patron saint of archers and was chosen to be the patron saint of the town since its early history, first brought by the immigrants from the Canaries and later confirmed by the Basques, with the town name changed in 1869.

Hurricane María

Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017 triggered numerous landslides in San Sebastián with the significant amount of rainfall. The hurricane winds knocked all the power out and the town was left in the dark.

The 40,000 residents of San Sebastián were left without electrical power. Two weeks after the hurricane decimated the island, Javier Jiménez, the mayor at the time, noticed that help was not on the way. He decided that San Sebastián would not wait for the AEE brigades to come. He assembled an ad hoc team of volunteers, some who were retired AEE electricians, set safety protocols, and their mandate was to get the electrical power back up and running for the people of San Sebastián. Four months after the hurricane, they had restored power to 2,500 homes and continued to do about 60 homes each day. A monument honoring the accomplishments of the Pepino Power Authority, as they were quickly named, was erected in Plaza de la Identidad Pepiniana in San Sebastián barrio-pueblo.


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