Visit the Puerto Rican Town of Toa Alta
Founded in 1751, Toa Alta is one of Puerto Rico’s oldest towns and has many fine examples of architecture dating back to that time, such as the San Fernando Rey Church situated in the town square which was built in 1752. Located to the west of the island’s capital city, San Juan, Toa Alta offers visitors a number of interesting attractions and landmarks to view and explore. The town also has a number of festivals celebrating the history and culture of the area, including the Festival de Bellas Artes in April, Patron Saint Celebrations in May and Traditional Music in November. In March each year, Toa Alta hosts the annual Chopa Marathon, a freshwater fishing event in which competitors attempt to catch the largest chopa – a species of sunfish – in the Rio La Plata.
The town’s main plaza features a superb specimen of a Bala de Cañón tree (Couroupita nicaraguarensis), also known as a ‘cannon-ball’ tree, being a reference to the unusual fruit it bears. Prior to the fruit appearing the tree is covered in delicate shell-shaped yellow, white and red flowers. This is the only tree of its kind on the island, as it is indigenous to Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Panama.
Also in the main plaza is a statue of Puerto Rican musician and composer Tomas “Masso” Rivera who was born in Toa Alta on November 13, 1927. Rivera discovered his talent for music at a young age and was always keen to entertain his fellow “Toalteños” with his cuatro playing skills. Upon enrolling in the US Army in the early 1950s Rivera entertained his fellow soldiers and upon returning home in 1954 he turned his attention to making music his career, which he was able to do with support from his friend, Puerto Rican author Abelardo Díaz Alfaro. He also had the good fortune to work with artists who promoted typical Puerto Rican music, including Rosario Guzman, Ramito and Chuito El De Bayamon. Rivera went on to make numerous albums and win a number of awards. The municipal theater is named in his honor and so is one of Toa Alta’s middle schools.